Categories
Entrepreneurship Goals Learning Podcast Responsive

Behavior Change – Zander Media Strategy Sessions

A few weeks ago in NYC, I led a strategy workshop for an exclusive group of CEOs and founders who are building companies designed to thrive in the Future of Work.

Every organization is tasked with issues that seem insurmountable. Often, the process to accomplishing a huge goal can be so overwhelming that we never get started. Behavior change can help make seemingly impossible goals feel smaller and more attainable.

What we want to accomplish is not going to happen in a single day. Instead, break the large goal down into the smallest steps possible, steps so small that they are almost ridiculously easy. When you succeed at accomplishing that tiny step, you will be encouraged to continue.

This is how we build new habits and behavior changes that eventually create monumental differences in our organizations and lives.

Categories
Entrepreneurship Learning Podcast Responsive

How to Create an Amazing Brand with Michael Roderick

A few weeks ago, I sat down with Michael Roderick to discuss brand strategy and his work around creating “referrable brands.” This conversation covers a wide range of topics related to brand strategy, including his AIM model which stands for Accessibility, Influence, and Memory. We apply this framework to a variety of business examples, including my own efforts at Zander Media. I hope you enjoy!

Podcast Notes:

3:30 Michael’s background
Robin refers to:
Made To Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Influence by Robert B. Cialdini
6:30 How Michael and Robin know each other
Responsive Conference
Responsive Org Manifesto
10:30 Teaching and learning
15:30 Transitioning from teaching to starting a business
Michael mentions:
Linchpin by Seth Godin
18:15 Michael’s talk at Disrupt HR
20:45 Referrable brands: Accessibility, Influence, and Memory
24:00 Michael’s podcast
26:30 Applying AIM to Zander Media
30:15 Influence
34:00 Memory
40:00 Lin Manuel Miranda, Geico, and Apple
46:15 Find more about Michael:
Small Pond Enterprises
LinkedIn
47:45 Find more about Robin:
Zander Media
Responsive Conference
Robin Zander Show Podcast
Newsletter – Personal
Newsletter – Responsive

Categories
Entrepreneurship Learning Podcast Responsive Robins Cafe Special Needs

How to Ask Better Questions with Daniel Stillman and Robin Zander

In this episode, my friend, Daniel Stillman, interviews me for his podcast, The Conversation Factory. We discuss how to ask better questions, the value of loving, non- judgmental questions, and my story.

I hope you enjoy today’s podcast as Daniel flips the script and interviews me on the art of asking questions.

Line Notes

1:15 How Robin describes himself

5:15 Responsive Org

Mentions:

Responsive.org

DonorsChoose.org

10:00 How do you define learning?

14:30 Asking loving questions

17:45 Practice versus performance intervals

22:30 Physical and emotional pain

Mentions:

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

Pre-suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert Cialdini

24:30 Asking loving questions

29:00 Robin’s interest in asking questions

32:30 Anat Baniel

37:00 The Option Institute

40:45 Categories of questions

Mentions:

Larissa Conte at Responsive Conference

45:15 Robin’s Cafe

47:00 Find Robin:

Categories
Entrepreneurship Learning Podcast Robins Cafe

The Biggest Regret From Selling My Cafe (Isn’t What You Think)

A few weeks ago, I sold Robin’s Cafe.

I sold my cafe after spending almost 3 years building it up from nothing. When I began Robin’s Cafe, there was a parking lot across the street. Today, that parking lot is literally a park and a playground. I was able to grow the cafe because of a ton of factors: good timing, a great neighborhood, a lenient lease, and a whole ton of effort. When I left, the cafe employed 15 people on staff, up from 1 person on our first day of operations.

Every morning since I sold my business, I’ve woken up at 7am with a thrill because I don’t have to solve food service emergencies anymore! But a few days after selling Robin’s Cafe, I had an insight and my first tinge of regret about selling my business.

But I promise: the regret isn’t what you think. I don’t regret starting the business, and I certainly don’t regret selling it. The only thing I really wish I had done differently is document every step of the journey along the way.

When we started out, I did document. Here was my first video:

I sold my cafe after spending almost 3 years building it up from nothing. When I began Robin’s Cafe there was a parking lot across the street. Today, that parking lot is literally quite literally a park and playground. I was able to grow the cafe because of a ton of factors: good timing, a great neighborhood, a lenient lease, and a whole ton of effort. When I left, the cafe employed 15 people on staff, up from 1 person on our first day of operations.

Every morning since I sold my business, I’ve woken up at 7am with a thrill because I don’t have to solve food service emergencies anymore! But a few days after selling Robin’s Cafe, I had an insight and my first tinge of regret about selling my business.

But I promise: the regret isn’t what you think. I don’t regret starting the business, and I certainly don’t regret selling it. The only thing I really wish I had done differently is document every step of the journey along the way.

When we started out, I did document. Here was my first video:

And I documented pieces of the journey on Instagram, and I wrote a series of posts about the early days (see Parts III, and III). But I really wish I had hired a full-time videographer to capture every moment.

There were ridiculous moments, like when I learned the hard way that our espresso machine drain pipe was too narrow:

One afternoon, during our first month of business, I got a frantic call from my manager, saying that the espresso machine was backed up. I quickly realized that the situation wasn’t going to be easily resolved and would take several hours of sorting and deconstruction before we could adequately address the issue.

That evening, equipped with an air compressor that my friend and investor, Krista Schnell, had acquired, we proceeded to attempt to blow out the clogged pipe. The first two attempts failed, because we had failed to adequately secure the pipes we were attempting to clean, but the 3rd time we succeeded. 50 pounds of air pressure was more than sufficient to clean the ¼ inch diameter pipe of years of built up espresso grounds and spoilt milk. Unfortunately, I’d had my head down near the drain pipe, to report on the success of our cleaning endeavors. The resulting expulsion from the stuck pipe sprayed espresso and milk goop all over the wall 10 feet away, ceiling 15 feet above, and my entire head and torso.

That makes a for a good story about what it actually takes to run a cafe, and that’s the real stuff that people don’t talk about.

There were moments that are much more difficult to talk about, like when Frank didn’t show up for work, and I found out that he had died. When I published that story, it turned out that this is something other companies have had to deal with, and there are almost no resources about process grief or how to support a company grieving for a colleague. I wish I had a video detailing my experience to share with others a resource for them. (That’s one of the reasons we are creating content about grief at my new company, Motion.)

I wish I had footage of my nephew walking into Robin’s Cafe for the first time, looking in awe at my ice cream machine, and asking, in hushed tones, “Uncle Robin, do you own that Ice Cream Machine?!”

Most of all, I always wanted to have a digital representation of our physical bricks-and-mortar coffeeshop. I had hoped to create something online that customers could point to and be proud of in the same way they were proud of our store. Of course, I communicated with 5000+ customers via newsletter, spent countless hours talking with customers onsite, and developed meaningful personal relationship with vendors, staff, and neighbors. I even conducted a few podcast interview with vendors, like Andrew Barnett, founder of our coffee roaster Linea. But I never did create the digital equivalent of our physical store.

If I had it all to do over, I would have hired a full-time videographer onsite at Robin’s Cafe every single day to record and and create a short video every day about the building of our shop. This would have had a variety of benefits:

  • Captured endless hours of content which we would have turned into dozens or even hundreds of videos. Even if 90% of those videos were never viewed, some would have landed with our customers and a broader audience.
  • Parsed those videos into platform-specific content for LinkedIn, Instagram, and others. Some of that would even have made its way as strict audio onto my podcast The Robin Zander Show.
  • Learned advertising much earlier. Throughout much of 2018, I finally learned a bit about Facebook advertising and began advertising Robin’s Cafe to folks in the 94110 zip code. If I had been investing the money and time in creating videos, I would have also explored paid advertising much earlier.
  • Creating video would have been a forcing function for a variety of on-site efforts. I got better over time at having fliers on the doors and windows, teaching our staff to up-sell customers, and even promoting relevant podcasts to the 200+ customers who came through our doors each day. With fresh cafe videos daily, I would have done that much earlier, more often, and more effectively.

When I look at the potential upside of these efforts, I would have 2x or 3x our revenue in our first two years of business. Conservatively.

I’m not displeased with our numbers. As it was, we saw 50-80% growth every year. But the cafe could have performed better, and I would have even better stories to share.

I’m not making this mistake again. I’ve begun a new company, Motion, which provides online and in-person tools in those areas many people need a bit more support. We discuss the taboo topics: things like money, grief, mental health, and behavior change. And our first full-time employee is, in fact, a videographer!

Additionally, I’ve started documenting the journey of building Motion myself via my new Zander Vlog. (Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel!)

I hope this story is useful to you! If it is, please let me know by liking this post and leaving a comment below! Thanks for reading.

Categories
Entrepreneurship Learning Robins Cafe

Have You Always Wanted To Own a Cafe? (Hint: Don’t)

It has been almost 3 years since I began Robin’s Cafe, as a service to the attendees of the conference I was running onsite. I wanted coffee and sandwiches for our conference attendees, saw an opportunity to serve the neighborhood, and on 3 weeks notice, opened a cafe.

Now, 3 year later, I have learned a ton, and I’m ready to turn my attention to new adventures. I’ve left Robin’s Cafe in the very capable hands of my (former) team and the new owners. The new owners have owned a cafe previously and had been looking for just the right cafe to operate in San Francisco for several years. Even more, though, the team I left in place are the heartbeat of the organization, and they are excited for the continued tweaks and improvements to come.

Over the next few months, I hope to share some lessons learned from opening, building, and selling my cafe. (If you missed Part 1, you might want to begin there.) I hope you enjoy!

Silicon Valley celebrates “Exits”. We shouldn’t.

The number of times I’ve heard people bragging about their successful “exists” on the streets of San Francisco… If you aren’t familiar, an “exit” means selling your business or getting bought by another business. I was a bit skeptical, but like many in the Bay Area, I was also excited by the prospect of selling a company. It sounds like fun!

It isn’t. First of all, the number of hoops that have to be jumped through are outrageous. Legal, bureaucratic, logistic, financial, and – finally – people.

Really, though, we shouldn’t celebrate exits because it puts the focus in the wrong place – building unsustainable companies. Even though I’ve sold Robin’s Cafe at a profit, doing so is a mark that I am no longer the right person to run the business I started. For me, operating a cafe longterm is unrealistic and unsustainable. I am not a good long term fit for the role of “coffee shop owner”, in no small part because I consistently have other projects that keep me from solving the day-to-day minutiae that come up when running a restaurant.

Law is a Required Skill

When I opened Robin’s Cafe, I, my manager at the time, and the then-Executive Director of our landlord company, ODC, wrote and signed a 12 page lease that has served as our operating and guiding document ever since. It didn’t occur to any of us to have an attorney proof the lease, nor, as I found out 2 years later, did ODC’s Board of Directors approve the lease.

The terms of a lease will make or break your business. We have served more than 25,000 avocado toasts in 3 years, but that by itself isn’t enough. It isn’t sufficient to provide great service or be constantly busy. If the terms of a lease aren’t service-able, the business is going to fail.

I’ve signed a lot of documents in my life without reading the fine print. You probably have, too. I can’t keep track of the number of times Facebook or Gmail have changed their terms of service. But what am I going to do? Stop using my email? And it turns out the importance of a legally binding document, that will impact the livelihood of your business for years to come, is fundamentally important.

People Matter More Than Anything

I’ve seen over 50 employees come and go through Robin’s Cafe, and the cafe generally has about 15 people on staff at any time. Through this, I’ve discovered that the people behind the counter – the staff – are the heartbeat of an organization.

There’s the obvious stuff: you can’t serve customers without someone behind the counter to serve them. But more importantly, the culture of Robin’s Cafe has become a reflection of the culture of the staff.

Conway’s Law states that the shape of an organization dictates the shape of the products that company creates. In our case, though the cafe sells coffee and avocado toast, the real product was community. The community we had behind the counter is the real asset of Robin’s Cafe, and it is reflected in the quality of our patrons. Many companies say something like “We <3 our customers.” Walking into Robin’s Cafe, any day of the week, it is clear that they really do.

But when I say “People Matter More Than Anything”, I’m not just talking about customers. Yes, you can’t run a cafe without customers. But that’s just the gravy. Serving food and coffee is the job. Forming community for your customers? That’s the bonus, for when everything else is going well. And things only go well when the employees – those people doing the day-to-day work of the restaurant – are happy and satisfied themselves. There are lots of little ways to do this, but the single biggest, is spending time with each individual person within the organization, knowing them, knowing what matters for them, and following up – day after day.

Certainly, I’ve failed at this at times. There have been months at a time when I didn’t spend enough time with my staff. But that process, the regular, day-to-day attention, is what makes a cafe successful.

The Cost of Doing Business

There is a lot of talk about entrepreneurship right now. Unlike a decade ago, starting your own company is hip. There’s going to come a time in the next few years when that isn’t true, and we don’t put starting a business on a pedestal, but meanwhile…

Speaking as the “entrepreneur” behind several companies and with a successful “exit” under my belt, running a small business isn’t all that it is cracked up to be. Though we celebrate entrepreneurship at the moment, we aren’t talking about what it actually takes to maintain a successful company. Especially where a “successful” company means one that has a profit, doesn’t take on outsized debt, and remains in business!

What they don’t tell you, and I wish I’d known in starting Robin’s Cafe, is the bureaucratic hoops that have to be jumped every step of the way. To successfully operate Robin’s Cafe, I had to get and maintain the following permits:

  • California State Limited Liability Company
  • DBA (Doing Business As) Registration
  • California State Seller’s Permit
  • San Francisco Business Permit
  • San Francisco Health Department Permit
  • San Francisco Alcoholic Beverage Control Permit
  • Outdoor Tables and Chairs Permitting
  • And several more…

The logistics necessary to manage all of that permitting isn’t what most people who dream about opening up a cafe want to do. But that’s the necessary work, just in order to be in the game!

Have You Always Wanted to Own a Cafe? Don’t!

To all of those people who have approached me over the last few years and said: “I’ve always dreamed of owning a cafe” – and there have been hundreds – my response is this:

Don’t! Or at least: Know Yourself.

Here are some questions that I wish someone had asked me before I opened up Robin’s Cafe. I would still have begun the coffeeshop, but I would perhaps have done so with eyes just a bit more wide open.

Some questions to consider:

  • Are you interested in sweeping up spilled coffee grounds? Everyday? Forever?
  • Are you excited for the challenge of dealing with a dozen or more vendors, on a daily basis, each with their own schedules, pay structure, and delivery errors?
  • Are you sure you want to work in an industry that has the highest turnover of any industry in the world?
  • Does solving customer’s problems excite you, truly?

If so, then by all means! But these aren’t things most people who want to run a cafe, are eager to do. And this is the job.

The folks I’ve met are excited by the idea of running a cafe want different things. They want the philosophical elements – the beautiful space, building a community, the moments of delight for a customer. These things are the upside of a successful cafe, but not the reason to run one.

I remember the first time I learned – the hard way – that our espresso machine drain pipe is too small. One afternoon I got a frantic call from my then-manager, saying that the espresso machine was backed up, resulting in a very difficult time serving lattes, cappuccinos, and other espresso drinks. I quickly realized that the situation wasn’t going to be easily resolved, and would take several hours of sorting and deconstruction before we could adequately address the issue.

That evening, equipped with an air compressor that my friend and investor, Krista, had acquired for the purpose, we proceeded to attempt to blow out the clogged pipe. The first two attempts failed, because we had failed to adequately secure the pipes we were attempting to clean, but the 3rd time we succeeded. 50 pounds of air pressure was more than sufficient to clean the ¼ inch diameter pipe of years of built up espresso grounds and spoilt milk. Unfortunately, I’d had my head down near the drain pipe, to report on the success of our cleaning endeavors. The resulting expulsion from the stuck pipe, sprayed espresso and milk goop all over the wall 10 feet away, ceiling 15 feet above, and my entire head and torso.

Closing

When I look back at Robin’s Cafe, and especially now that a month has gone by, I’m mostly just grateful. To the 50+ employees I’ve had the pleasure of working with, the 200+ customers we’ve served each day, for the recognition of just how much work is required, and for all that I have learned along the way.

Look out for more from me over the coming months!

Categories
Culture Learning Responsive

Larissa Conte on Ritual and Transformation

Larissa Conte is a systems coach, ceremony designer, and rites of passage guide through her business, Wayfinding. She also works with The Ready doing organization transformation to fuel the future of work. Larissa specializes in facilitating transformation and alignment across scales to foster power that serves.

With deep experience in the energetics and mechanics of transformation, Larissa helps individuals and groups develop refined sensing and listening, shed what no longer serves, and dynamically steward greater creative energy in their lives and companies. Her work weaves 10+ years of experience in the diverse fields of leadership coaching, organizational culture consulting, ecosystems science, strategy design, holistic healing/wellness, ceremony, somatic intimacy coaching, and wilderness survival. She’s worked with hundreds of leaders across startups and the Fortune 100, and is based in San Francisco.

As change agents, within or outside of organizations, attendees of Responsive Conference are those most responsible for other’s transformation. Onstage at this year’s conference, Larissa will invite us to consider our own blind spots, and the taboos we are failing to address that keep us from doing our best work.

Show Notes
3:00 Thinking and sensing
7:30 Physical injuries and emotional challenges

  • Mentions: Ishmael by Daniel Quinn

9:45 Wayfinding
13:00 Moved by feeling
17:30 Minimum amount of challenge for maximum change
19:15 Rite of passage
23:45 Larissa’s personal rituals
26:30 Beginnings and endings
30:00 Closing a meeting
31:15 What is going on culturally
36:30 Tensions coming to the surface
42:00 Unique voice

45:30 Redefine mastery
48:00 Resources:

Categories
Culture Entrepreneurship Learning Podcast Responsive

Responsive Audiobook: Chapter 9, Diversity and Inclusion

I’m excited to share a chapter of my book, Responsive: What It Takes to Create a Thriving Organization. The full audiobook version of Responsive comes out in late September 2018, but in the meantime, I am excited to share it in podcast form.

Here’s an excerpt:

You might think that disruptive, forward thinking, companies like Uber and Google would have addressed inclusion and diversity. But Uber has faced a slew of recent challenges: including well-documented allegations of sexual misconduct throughout the company. Meanwhile, Google, is facing Department of Labor allegations about extreme gender pay disparities. Outside of technology, too, this problem is pervasive. More cases of sexual harassment, in fields ranging from journalism to government, are becoming public with increasing regularity.

Diversity and inclusion issues range well beyond gender and include discrimination related to race, religion and disability to name a few. Companies need to be open to listening to employee concerns about inclusion, and fostering environments that encourage dissenting viewpoints. Organizations should strive to create environments in which people can thrive.

Diversity and inclusion are complex concepts, and a full discussion of their impacts exceeds the scope of this book. What’s relevant for Responsive organizations is that diversity of opinions can create higher-performing teams, and that diverse populations continue to experience discrimination and exclusion.

If you’ve enjoyed this chapter of Responsive, you can purchase a Kindle or print version of the book on Amazon. And be sure to check out the Responsive Conference, coming up September 24-25th in Queens, NY.

Categories
Creative Entrepreneurship Learning Podcast Responsive

Responsive Audiobook: Chapter 8, Transparency

I’m excited to share a chapter of my book, Responsive: What It Takes to Create a Thriving Organization.

The full audiobook version of Responsive comes out in late September 2018, but in the meantime, I am excited to share it in podcast form.

Here’s an excerpt:

Lessons in Transparency

Just Try It On

Not every company is going to immediately experiment with the transparency of normally private data. The specifics of a particular industry matter, and regulated industries may not always have a choice about what they are obliged or forbidden to share.

But it is a common trend for Responsive organizations to at least experiment with the openness of information. Information is a critical factor in empowering all people within the company to do their jobs well. Transparency can change mindsets, broaden people’s perspectives, and create positive effects on culture. If making information public is not an option, consider making more information available internally.

Leverage Technology

Technology is both a driver of growth and a challenge for Responsive companies. Technology is disrupting entire industries and changing consumer patterns and communication possibilities globally. No edict says companies must be fully transparent, and yet the world is increasingly connected. Data and knowledge that are guarded heavily may be leaked or accidentally distributed despite best efforts and it can be useful to recognize and adapt to this fact. Organizations willing to proactively explore how technology and data openness can create benefits are a step ahead of those more guarded and reluctant to embrace the realities of technology progression.

If you’ve enjoyed this chapter of Responsive, you can purchase a Kindle or print version of the book on Amazon. And be sure to check out the Responsive Conference, coming up September 24-25th in Queens, NY.

Categories
Creative Entrepreneurship Learning Podcast Responsive

Responsive Audiobook: Chapter 7, How to Experiment

I’m excited to share a chapter of my book, Responsive: What It Takes to Create a Thriving Organization.

The full audiobook version of Responsive comes out in late September 2018, but in the meantime, I am excited to share it in podcast form.

Here’s an excerpt:

How to Experiment

Experimentation is at the heart of any Responsive organization. The goal is to react quickly with the best information at hand, and then respond to feedback, whether it be from clients, the market or employees.  The following three components are needed before companies can experiment successfully.

Trust

A vital component of any organization that wants to experiment is trust in the people actually doing the work. There was a point in catering the first annual Responsive Conference where the outcome was simply out of my control and I had to trust the people to whom I had given authority. In Buffer’s experiments with remote work, there was a willingness to trust that their employees would be productive outside of a traditional office setting. Had things gone poorly, they could always have moved back to a single location.

Culture

Culture is the second principle which makes a successful experimental company. General Electric couldn’t have embarked on the changes former CEO Jeff Immelt ushered in without a willingness to experiment with new visions, plans, and actions (see Chapter 6). While opinions of success vary, depending on whether we’re considering shareholder value or improved culture, GE is now a more agile company with a more human-focused culture than it had before.

Similarly, at Culture Amp, it took Didier Elzinga’s thoughtfulness and a company focused on the well-being of people, to leave behind a model of compensation that did not suit the needs of that organization.

Incremental Change

Finally, incremental change can be used to ease the process of implementing Responsive principles. Incremental change can minimize losses and maximize learning from “failed” experiments and allow successful trials to be quickly built upon, scaled, or improved further. This doesn’t mean all Responsive change must be small (as we’ll see in the next chapter), but it is important to factor in the gains afforded by small cumulative adaptations.

If you’ve enjoyed this chapter of Responsive, you can purchase a Kindle or print version of the book on Amazon. And be sure to check out the Responsive Conference, coming up September 24-25th in Queens, NY.

Categories
Entrepreneurship Learning Podcast Responsive

Responsive Audiobook: Chapter 6, Controlling and Empowering

I’m excited to share a chapter of my book, Responsive: What It Takes to Create a Thriving Organization.

The full audiobook version of Responsive comes out in late September 2018, but in the meantime, I am excited to share it in podcast form.

Here’s an excerpt:

Characteristics of a Cult—or Any Poorly Run Company

The mechanisms that cults use to attract and keep members are actually used by all organizations to some degree. Cults just do things in extremes.

  • Cults place a “high demand” on their members, progressively raising the bar as people move toward the inner circles of the organization.
  • They allow for varying degrees of commitment and involvement, but the more members become involved within the organization, the more external communities are forbidden.
  • Cults are ideologically intense and offer simplistic answers.
  • They encourage conformity within the organization.

Cults are jealous of inclusion in other organizations and actively try to shut down member’s participation in alternative communities.

If you’ve enjoyed this chapter of Responsive, you can purchase a Kindle or print version of the book on Amazon. And be sure to check out the Responsive Conference, coming up September 24-25th in Queens, NY.

Categories
Culture Entrepreneurship Learning Podcast Responsive

Responsive Audiobook: Chapter 5, Leadership

I’m excited to share a chapter of my book, Responsive: What It Takes to Create a Thriving Organization.

The full audiobook version of Responsive comes out in late September 2018, but in the meantime, I am excited to share it in podcast form.

Here’s an excerpt:

Each person must determine how they will lead, but that leadership always stems from character and values. The leadership demonstrated by Stanley McChrystal, Pam Slim, and Adam Pisoni is rooted in what they personally value. The particulars of how that leadership materializes will vary depending on the situation, but an organization can’t surpass the quality of its leadership. As Chris Fussell has said of the team of teams approach, leader behavior is the essential element that allows a plan to succeed. Investing in leadership—your own and that of your teams—can only pay dividends in the long run.

If you’ve enjoyed this chapter of Responsive, you can purchase a Kindle or print version of the book on Amazon. And be sure to check out the Responsive Conference, coming up September 24-25th in Queens, NY.

Categories
Creative Entrepreneurship Learning Podcast Responsive

Responsive Audiobook: Chapter 4, How We Organize

I’m excited to share a chapter of my book, Responsive: What It Takes to Create a Thriving Organization.

The full audiobook version of Responsive comes out in late September 2018, but in the meantime, I am excited to share it in podcast form.

Here’s an excerpt:

In the past there were big and complex tasks that required many people working on them. The ‘transaction costs’ involved to get coordination between people was high, so the concept of a Manager was introduced. As the number of Managers increased, a Manager of the Managers was created… and hierarchies formed.

This resulted in order, clarity of authority, rank, and power. They reinforced a single primary connection: manager to worker, and enabled a command and control style of leadership that was terrifically successful during the industrial era.

If you’ve enjoyed Chapter 4 of Responsive, you can purchase a Kindle or print version of the book on Amazon. And be sure to check out the Responsive Conference, coming up September 24-25th in Queens, NY.

Categories
Culture Entrepreneurship Learning Podcast Responsive

Chris Fussell & Rachel Mendelowitz of the McChrystal Group at Responsive Conference 2016

I hope you enjoy this talk from Responsive Conference 2016 with former Navy SEAL and New York Times best-selling author Chris Fussell (@fussellchris) alongside Rachel Mendelowitz (@rachelowitz) as they discuss “Team of Teams” and new ways of organizing companies of the future.

Alongside General Stan McChrystal, Chris runs the McChrystal Group – an organizational design consultancy that works with companies all over the world to do in industry what Stan, Chris and the US Military did during the Iraq War. In the book Teams of Teams, Stanley McChrystal and Chris outline how they took the special operations branch of the US Military – a stereotypically bureaucratic organization – and transformed it into a adaptive, agile system.

This video was recorded at the 1st Annual Responsive Conference in 2016.

Learn more:
http://responsiveconference.com

Categories
Creative Culture Entrepreneurship Learning Podcast Responsive

Responsive Audiobook: Chapter 3, Purpose

I’m very pleased to share, exclusively for this podcast, a chapter of my book, Responsive: What It Takes to Create a Thriving Organization. The full audiobook version of Responsive comes out in late September 2018, but in the meantime, I am excited to share it out in podcast form.

Here’s an excerpt. Subscribe and listen to The Robin Zander Show for the full chapter!

The Morning Star Company

Doug Kirkpatrick was one of the earliest employees at The Morning Star Company. Founded in 1990, Morning Star would go on to trailblaze self-management in business. But as might be expected of any start-up, let alone one committed to innovative management, the company’s early days were intense times.

Morning Star is a tomato-ingredients manufacturer based out of Sacramento, California. The agribusiness and food-processing industries are notoriously old-school, known for strict command and control structures and rigid bureaucracies. The small group of employees who initiated the Morning Star project had a six-month window to start up the first factory and had committed to beginning operations on a specified day and even at a specific hour. They were a high-performance group, and Doug describes those initial weeks as a high state of flow, with each person striving cooperatively to bring the new company into existence. The company consisted of seasoned employees, and Doug, at thirty-four, was considered quite young.

Several months before the factory opened, the owner of The Morning Star Company, Chris Rufer, called a leadership meeting. The Morning Star founder and twenty-four members of the team met on the job site. They pulled steel folding chairs into a circle, and Chris passed around a page titled “Morning Star Colleague Principles.”

The sheet included just two points:

  •      Don’t use force.
  •      Keep your commitments.

The group spent several hours discussing what these principles meant. Questions cropped up. What happens if you have to fire somebody? What if someone quits? In the end, no one found a reason to reject these ideas, and every person there had reasons to embrace them.

Together, the group concluded that these two points were necessary and sufficient, and they would make up the core of all human interactions at the company. Adopting these principles wouldn’t change the day-to-day operations of the nascent company, but they’d have clear guideposts by which they’d proceed.

What they perhaps didn’t fully process at that moment (and what Doug has spent his career implementing, first at Morning Star and now with companies all over the world) was the far-reaching ramifications of adopting those simple principles. Consider, for example, that “Don’t Use Force” effectively implies:

  •      No one can require anyone to do anything.
  •      No one can unilaterally make anyone do anything.
  •      No one can fire anyone unilaterally.
  •      Each person has a voice within the company and each voice is protected; no democracy or majority rules.
  •      Checks and balances will be inherent.

At the time, it didn’t register how profoundly that meeting, and its eventual outcomes, would impact the team, and its members individually. As Doug said, “What we did would end up being very radical—but we were so busy we didn’t necessarily see it since it didn’t seem immediately to impact our day-to-day lives.” More than two decades later, those principles—don’t use force and keep your commitments—continue to serve as the bedrock of a successful, self-managed company.

Shortly before opening, Doug and his colleagues celebrated his thirty-fourth birthday outside the same farmhouse where Chris Rufer had called that fateful leadership meeting. The company has gone on to become a model of self-management and the world’s largest tomato processor, handling between 25% and 30% of U.S. tomato crops.

If you’ve enjoyed this chapter of Responsive, you can purchase a Kindle or print version of the book on Amazon. And be sure to check out the Responsive Conference, coming up September 24-25th in Queens, NY.

Categories
Creative Culture Entrepreneurship Learning Podcast Responsive

Responsive Audiobook: Chapter 2, The Future of Work

 

I’m very pleased to share, exclusively for this podcast, a chapter of my book, Responsive: What It Takes to Create a Thriving Organization. The full audiobook version of Responsive comes out in late September 2018, but in the meantime, I am excited to share it out in podcast form.

Here’s an excerpt. Subscribe and listen to The Robin Zander Show for the full chapter!

…as the pace of change accelerates, the challenges we face are becoming less and less predictable. Those practices that were so successful in the past are counter-productive in less predictable environments. In contrast, Responsive Organizations are designed to thrive in less predictable environments…

— Responsive Org Manifesto

The world is changing more rapidly than we have ever seen before in human history. According to 2012 estimates, members of the S&P 500 were expected on average to remain in the index for only eighteen years, compared to the sixty-one years they might have expected in 1958. The anticipated lifespan of companies has dropped dramatically over the last few decades.

We also see this in the rise of the ridesharing industry—Lyft and Uber, among others—which was enabled by the proliferation of smartphones. This new industry seized a large part of the taxi market, which previously had been considered stable, if not untouchable. Similarly, the rise of home sharing—and most notably, AirBNB—was made possible by the hyper-connectivity of the Internet Age, and disrupted the traditional hotel industry.

Another example of the changing nature of the business landscape is the 2017 acquisition of Whole Foods by Amazon.com. The day the acquisition was announced, Whole Foods stock rocketed almost 30%, while the value of competitors in the grocery business dropped precipitously. The presumption, it seems, is that disruption of the grocery industry is now inevitable.

There’s a broad lesson in the emergence of ride sharing, home sharing, and the Whole Foods acquisition—which is that any organization or industry is liable to be shaken up at any moment. The goal of every company in the 21st century should be to become resilient, flexible, and have the capacity to respond to inevitable change. Industries, today, can change with unprecedented speed.

If you’ve enjoyed Chapter 2 of Responsive, you can purchase a Kindle or print version of the book on Amazon. And be sure to check out the Responsive Conference, coming up September 24-25th in Queens, NY.

Categories
Creative Culture Entrepreneurship Learning Podcast Responsive

Responsive: What It Takes To Create A Thriving Organization, Chapter 1

I’m very pleased to share, exclusively for this podcast, the first chapter of my book, Responsive: What It Takes to Create a Thriving Organization. The full audiobook version of Responsive comes out in late September 2018, but in the meantime, I am excited to share it out in podcast form.

Here’s an excerpt. Subscribe and listen to The Robin Zander Show for the full chapter!

 

On the Shoulders of Giants

Responsive has been built on a community of which I am just a single member.

I am grateful to the six people wrote the Responsive Org manifesto, and began a movement: Adam Pisoni, Aaron Dignan, Matthew Partovi, Mike Arauz, Steve Hopkins and Alexis Gonzales-Black. They put words to a problem faced by organizations today and gave us a language to describe the challenges and tensions that have long existed in the workplace.

I would not have written this book without the friendship of Steve Hopkins, who taught me how to run an un-conference, and the handful of collaborators with whom I produced my first Responsive events.

I’m indebted to the fifty-plus leaders who I’ve interviewed on my podcast, The Robin Zander Show, who described big ideas like non-hierarchy and holacracy in simple language and gave me hope that I could write a book to do the same.

 

How To Use This Book

My career path has never followed a traditional route. My first job out of college was as a management consultant, with a gig as a circus performer nights and weekends. Of course, I couldn’t tell the consulting company that I was in the circus, but I also couldn’t admit to my fellow circus artists that I wore a suit to work. I am not content to live in such a binary world. I want to live in a world that encourages the full expression of every individual, and I am dedicated to building it. Improving the ways we work seems like a great place to start.

Responsive is a compilation of tactics and accompanying short stories about innovators on the front lines of the future of work. It is designed to be a choose-your-own-adventure exploration into how we work in the modern era, the approaches and perspectives employed by high performing organizations, and what makes those methods so effective.

While this book can be read cover to cover, I have designed it so that you can jump to those sections most interesting or relevant to you right now. Ultimately Responsive is intended as a reference guide as much as a road map—a resource you can return to again and again as you dive deeper into Responsive and the future of work.

 

A Responsive Café

I have a vested interest in discovering what works for myself and my small team. Throughout this book, I’ll share stories about my small business, a coffee shop in San Francisco, where I work with my ten-person staff to serve coffee and avocado toast and to build community.

I founded “Robin’s Café” in late April 2016, with no prior experience as a restaurateur but armed with a clear purpose: to foster a nascent community that I knew could exist in our corner of San Francisco. We had exactly three weeks from inception to opening day, so, unsurprisingly, our first week of operations was a mess. Attendees of a conference I had organized on site wanted to support the café, creating a bona fide lunch rush on our very first day.

In those early weeks, we were a team of four, often making up recipes on the spot to cover orders. I look back on those times now, after having a tough day, and realize that no matter how terrible things might seem, it will never be as chaotic and insane as those first few weeks.

We desperately needed additional staff. One day, a man named Frank quietly dropped off his resume during our usual morning rush. I was up to my elbows managing an exploding keg of cold brew. But even in the midst of a coffee emergency, it quickly became clear that Frank was professional, playful, and knowledgeable about the food service industry. I hired him, and he soon became indispensable at the café.

On May 20, 2016, Frank had been scheduled to open the café. Around 9:30 a.m., I got a call that Frank hadn’t shown up. “Was he sick?” I wondered. I checked to see if he’d sent me any messages, but there were none. I called him, but it went to voicemail. A week later, I sent an email, mostly in jest, with the subject, “Are you still alive?” The staff and I just assumed that Frank became a “no call, no show,” something not uncommon in the service industry. Frank’s cutting contact was a simple case of job abandonment. Still, it somehow didn’t seem like Frank, and I wanted to make sure he was okay. I tracked down his brother on social media and messaged him. I heard nothing for several days.

Then, out of the blue, Frank’s brother called me. “I’m sorry to have to tell you this,” I remember him saying, “My brother is dead. He was hit and killed by a train.” In that moment of shock, while I digested what I’d just heard, Frank’s brother went on: “I want you to know how happy he was to be working at Robin’s Café.”

Frank’s death is a constant reminder to me of how truly transient and changeable business—and life—can be. As a small business owner in those first few weeks, I had to be resilient, not just in my response to Frank’s death, but to be able to mentor and support those at our café and in the community who knew him. I was determined to build into the ethos of our organization this realization that circumstances can change in an instant. I wanted my team to be resilient when times got tough and grateful for the days when work felt more like play. I like to think that in some way this commitment to resilience and good humor is a small homage to Frank.

That same ethos is what has compelled me to write this book and to share just some of the ways that ground-breaking organizations and individuals are exploring human-centered work. This book is an invitation to see the value of Responsive approaches and bring them into your organization as fits your vision and culture.

If you’ve enjoyed Chapter 1 of Responsive, you can purchase a Kindle or print version of the book on Amazon. And be sure to check out the Responsive Conference, coming up September 24-25th in Queens, NY.

Categories
Culture Learning Podcast Responsive

“Empathy, Compromise, and Courage” – Adam Pisoni at Responsive Conference 2016

This video was recorded live at the 1st Annual Responsive Conference in 2016. Come see Adam Pisoni live again this year at the 3rd Annual Responsive Conference on September 24 and 25, 2018 in Queens, New York.

 

Building Yammer

Adam Pisoni (@adampisoni) co-founded Yammer (which sold to Microsoft for 1.2 billion dollars). He recounts how he learned about about Conway’s law. “At Yammer, we believed in rapid product iteration. Once we realized the organizational structure was part of the product, we then had to believe in rapid organization iteration.” The engineering mantra at Yammer became: “We’re not smarter than other people. We just iterate faster.”

This insight led Adam to recognize that he and the engineering and product teams at Yammer were not just building a product but building a company (at least, if they were going to be effective). He began to investigate what it would mean not just to rapidly iterate on Yammer’s product but to iterate the organization’s structure itself.

In other words, he began to explore whether Yammer could become more Responsive. What Adam was clear on, was that their product didn’t exist in isolation. Yammer, as a communication platform for enterprise businesses, was particularly well placed to recognize the challenges of the current working world. Eventually, Adam put these thoughts into a manifesto and shared them with CEOs and C-level executives. The response was an enthusiastic affirmation of their ideas. The result of this thinking led Adam to co-found the Responsive Org movement.

 

Experiments in Education

Adam realized the education system in North America is largely still reliant on an assembly-model way of teaching and thinking. Consider the structure of most schools: there are grades, segregated by age; there are alarm bells which tell students when to move from one classroom to the next. The most common form of learning is to passively sit and absorb lectured lessons.

More subtly, subjects are taught according to a linear progression. Math education in the United States, for example, moves from algebra, to geometry, to advanced algebra, to precalculus, to calculus. This progression to trains students to think about math in a way that only entrenches a hierarchical, linear view of how to how the world works. School in the 21st Century is still designed to produce people to work in factories.

Adam was bold enough to tackle revitalizing the education system, by optimizing administrators’ time and budgets. He founded Abl Schools, a collaborative platform for administrators and teachers. Abl has re-envisioned how principals relate with their teachers and facilities and how schools use their time. The idea is to help schools better manage the day-to-day to be able to achieve its educational goals, starting with the company’s first product, a cloud-based master scheduler.

Exciting possibilities emerge when we reconsider even behemoth institutions like the U.S. education system and experiment with new approaches that leverage technology and new models of collaborating. What is necessary, is the willingness to experiment.

A Diverse Founding Team

Adam Pisoni has been open about the challenges of creating diversity in founding his company Abl Schools. He writes:

“If your founding team is homogenous, it will likely develop a narrow culture which is well suited for that narrow group of people. That culture won’t be as self-aware of the lack of inclusion in the culture, but it will feel inclusive for everyone within the tight knit founding team. As new employees with different backgrounds join, they will be more likely to reject or be rejected from the culture than to add to it. While you may be celebrating how strong a culture and tight a team you have, you may also be unaware of the ways you’re actually reminding that new employee that they don’t belong.”

While there is a lot of conversation about fostering an inclusive company culture, very few Silicon Valley companies have an equal gender split between male and female employees, and even fewer have women or underrepresented groups at the highest levels of leadership.

As Adam explains, this doesn’t actually mean teams of straight white men can’t produce great companies. He argues: “I believe diverse founding teams can produce better outcomes. A team of white men can come up with good ideas. But I believe a diverse team can come up with better ones.” The curiosity and perseverance Adam has demonstrated at Abl Schools is an example of what can be done in any number of genres by founders just starting out.

If you enjoyed this episode of the Robin Zander Show, you might also enjoy hearing me and Adam in conversation, recorded at the Responsive book launch party last November.

At Responsive Conference 2018, Adam will be joined onstage by Anthony Kim (Founder, Education Elements) to dive deeply into the problems facing our current educational practices, and what can be done to improve them.

Learn more:
http://responsiveconference.com

Categories
Creative Culture Entrepreneurship Learning Podcast Responsive

Jennifer Dennard at Responsive Conference 2016 – “Medium – The Future of (People) Work”

I hope you enjoy this talk with Jennifer Dennard from Responsive Conference 2016. Jennifer is the co-founder of Range Labs and the former Head of People and Culture at Medium, focusing on organization design, people operations, and diversity & inclusion.

Jennifer is passionate about helping teams work together better. In this talk, Jennifer talks about human resources and a future of work that is best for our employees.

This talk was recorded live at the 1st Annual Responsive Conference in September 2016. Learn more at http://responsiveconference.com

Categories
Creative Entrepreneurship Learning Podcast Responsive

Charles Best at Responsive Conference 2017 – “DonorsChoose.org – A Purpose Driven Company”

I’m pleased to share this talk at Responsive Conference 2017 with Charles Best (@CharlesBest), founder and CEO of DonorsChoose.org.

Charles Best is an American philanthropist and entrepreneur. He is the founder and CEO of DonorsChoose.org, a crowdfunding platform for K-12 teachers serving in US schools.

Charles launched the organization out of a Bronx public high school where he taught history. DonorsChoose.org is one of Oprah Winfrey’s “ultimate favorite things” and was named by Fast Company as one of the “50 Most Innovative Companies in the World.”

This video was recorded at the 2nd Annual Responsive Conference in New York City in 2017. Learn more: http://responsiveconference.com

Categories
Culture Entrepreneurship Learning Podcast Responsive

Steve Hopkins at Responsive Conference 2017 – “Culture First”

I’m pleased to share this talk at Responsive Conference 2017 with Steve Hopkins (@stevehopkins), Director of Customer Success at Culture Amp and a founding member of the Responsive Org movement.

Steve is passionate about helping clients develop a responsive operating culture that they can be proud of. At Culture Amp, Steve does this by guiding clients through successful culture change programs using the Culture Amp HR and People Analytics platform.

This talk was recorded live at the 2nd Annual Responsive Conference in September 2017. Learn more at http://responsiveconference.com

Categories
Learning Love Podcast Responsive

Meg Poe at Responsive Conference 2017 – “The Most Popular Class at NYU on Love”

I’m pleased to share this talk at Responsive Conference 2017 with Meg Poe, professor at New York University.

Megan Poe is a psychiatrist and interpersonal psychoanalyst who teaches one of New York University’s most popular and fastest-growing classes. Her topic? Love! At this year’s Responsive Conference, she’ll explore with us what it takes to live, love, and work well.

In addition to her professorship at NYU, Meg has a private practice in New York City. Meg’s mission is to help people feel most present and alive in their creative flow and inner life. She specializes in helping adults create more-intimate, fulfilling relationships in their lives and work.

This talk was recorded live at the 2nd Annual Responsive Conference in September 2017. Learn more at http://responsiveconference.com

Categories
Entrepreneurship Learning Podcast Responsive

Aaron Dignan at Responsive Conference 2017 – “Let’s Disrupt the Modern World of Work”

I’m pleased to share this keynote address by my friend Aaron Dignan (@aarondignan), founder of The Ready, at Responsive Conference 2017.

Aaron Dignan sees the same phenomenon everywhere he looks. Our most trusted and important institutions – in business, healthcare, government, philanthropy, and beyond – are struggling. They’re confronted with the fact that the scale and bureaucracy that once made them strong are liabilities in an era of constant change.

Aaron is the founder of The Ready and a founding member of the Responsive Org movement.

This talk was recorded live at the 2nd Annual Responsive Conference in September 2017. We’re gearing up for Responsive Conference 2018, and excited to have The Ready leading an interactive Teaming simulation.

Learn more at responsiveconference.com

Categories
Creative Learning Podcast Responsive

Revolutionizing Education with Anthony Kim and Alexis Gonzales-Black

I am so excited for today’s interview with two guests. Today we are speaking with Anthony Kim (@Anthonx), the founder and CEO of Education Elements, as well as Alexis Gonzales-Black (@Gonzalesblack), a former guest on the podcast and speaker at Responsive Conference.

We are here today to talk about their new book, The New School Rules: 6 Vital Practices for Thriving and Responsive Schools. I had a blast conducting this interview and sitting down with them, and I hope you enjoy as much as I did!

Show Notes

1:30 How Anthony and Alexis met
4:30 Holacracy at Education Elements
7:00 Check ins and check outs
9:00 Balancing tensions
12:15 Assumptions versus known facts
14:15 Alexis’ background in education
15:30 Recruitment and retention
17:45 Inefficient processes in education
24:00 Team of teams autonomy
27:15 Tailor Responsive concepts to fit your personal teams
30:00 Sharing information transparently
32:30 School structures have not revolutionized enough
36:00 The New School Rules book structure
38:00 Planning and predicting
42:15 How to make change with mini experiments
45:15 Creating better work conditions for teachers
49:30 Safe enough to try
52:30 Contact Alexis and Anthony:
Website: The New School Rules
Amazon: The New School Rules: 6 Vital Practices for Thriving and Responsive Schools – If you like the book, please leave a review!
Linkedin: Alexis and Anthony
Twitter: Alexis, Anthony, The New School Rules
Anthony’s Website: Education Elements
Alexis’ Website: Thoughtful Org

If you enjoyed this interview you’ll also enjoy my first interview with Alexis Gonzales-Black, where we discussed her backstory, rolling out Holacracy at Zappos and much more.

And, don’t forget, tickets are on sale now for Responsive Conference 2018 – where both Alexis and Anthony will be onstage!

Categories
Creative Entrepreneurship Learning Podcast

Sunny Bates: How To Build A World Class Network

I first got to know today’s guest through my work at Socos, alongside Vivienne Ming. Over the last several years, I’ve heard a name mentioned in a variety of unlikely contexts – by Chris Anderson, the CEO of TED, Perry Chen, the Co-Founder of Kickstarter, and Beth Comstock, the Vice Chair at GE.

My guest today is Sunny Bates, a behind-the-scenes master connector of many of the most innovative companies, personalities, and artists that you’ve heard of, and many that you haven’t.

Sunny sits on the board of Kickstarter, the MIT Media Lab, and TED. She advises companies like GE and Credit Suisse on new initiatives and is the go-to resource when companies like P&G and The Guardian need a new breakthrough.

As you’ll hear, Sunny is deeply committed to culture and the arts. I was startled to learn that she had hosted world-famous musician, Amanda Palmer, and blogger, Maria Popova, to her home for a house party.

In this interview, we discuss how Sunny has built an incredible network of innovators, spanning more than 40,000 people, how her enthusiasm for spontaneous encounters led to her role at Kickstarter, among others, and some of the trends she is most excited for in the future.

Please enjoy!

Show Notes
2:30 Sunny’s connections
5:30 Building a network
10:30 Adding value to other’s work and lives
13:30 We learn quickest alongside an expert
16:45 Exploring our creative side
19:15 Kickstarter
22:00 Looking at the big picture
24:30 A career as a series of projects
29:00 Trends in the future of work
32:15 Equality
34:45 Acknowledgment and gratitude
38:00 It’s never too late to give thanks or apologize
39:45 Compensation
44:00 Books: The State of Affairs by Esther Perel
46:30 Website: sunnybates.com
Twitter: @SunnyBates
Ted Talk

Categories
Goals Learning Practical Philosophy

How I Conduct A Personal Annual Review – and Highlights from 2017

Every year, for nearly the last decade, I’ve conducted an annual review.

When writing a personal annual review, my process looks like this:

  • Going on the week by week view of my 2017 calendar and listing out every single thing that I spent my time doing. Given that most days I usually have 10-20 things on my calendar scheduled per day, this ends up being 4 or 5 handwritten pages. It goes faster than I would expect but usually takes about 2 hours. I list everything from phone calls, trips, and time spent in transit to meals (personal or professional), time at the cafe, time spent meeting vendors, and weekly standing meetings.
  • I go through and sort all of the items listed by category: business appointments, hours spent writing, hours spent exercising, hours working at the cafe.
  • Once I’ve organized everything by category, I give it a positive value judgement – a score from 1-10 on how much joy I derived from this activity, and a negative value judgement – a score from negative 1-10 on how much dissatisfaction I got from this activity. Each data point gets two specific numbers.
  • I mostly pay attention to the high scores of joy and the high scores of dissatisfaction. I circle the 8, 9, 10s of both positive and negative. I’ll list those out by peak experience by the positives like surfing, travel with my family, and time with my girlfriend, and the negatives like raising sponsorship, handling vendors at Robin’s Cafe, and time spent driving.
  • Next, I take this into action for the new year by grading the quality of my experiences over the year. If there are specific people that fall in the negative 8, 9, or 10 category, I may have to sever ties with them, which can be very challenging. I may email the person outlining the reasons why I am taking steps to set new boundaries in our relationship.
    • Ex: When I did this reflection in 2016, I noticed that there was a person that I had spent a lot of time with that year who I hadn’t enjoyed the quality of our time spent together. I asked myself – would I rather spend this time with this person or would I rather spend this time alone? To make a change going forward, I stopped calling him up. He invited me to a few things this year, and I declined. It was a pretty easy change.
    • Ex: Writing – I spent a lot of time writing in 2017. How much satisfaction did I get from the act of that process? Is that something worth repeating in 2018?
    • Ex: Time spent exercising – I spent significantly less time exercising in 2017 than in 2015 when I studied ballet every day. Is that amount of time per day enough? If the answer is no, I can schedule time to exercise everyday for a few hours in my calendar for 2018 for first few months.
  • Finally, I write down the 3 – 5 most significant changes or projects that I accomplished for the year (my trip to Morocco, my training in Puerto Rico, the 2nd Annual Responsive Conference, Responsive the book, and my relationship).

 

Significant Events & Projects in 2017

Morocco

I’ve written about cultural lessons learned on my trip to Morocco but less so about the importance of time spent with my parents. Growing up, I traveled with my immediate family several weeks per year but have not done so regularly as an adult. For my 30th birthday present, my parents took me on a 5 week trip to Morocco. What is interesting, in retrospect, is that even more than the cultural experience of traveling, was the importance of that time with my family. Taking time as an adult to get to know each of my parents, see myself in them, and be grateful for the quality of time spent has been, and continues to be, life changing.

 

Puerto Rico training

I spent 4 years in my early 20’s studying deep somatic practice with Anat Baniel and another 4 years studying at the Option Institute. While I no longer participate in either organization, I achieved a level of mastery with the tool sets that each of these organizations teach and continue to practice them to this day. On my first day of my first training with Anat Baniel, I told her that someday I would like to teach this material, and now 10 years later, I have done so only minimally.

The Puerto Rico training, which I co-taught with a friend in June of 2017, was my first public offering to teach and further refine the tool sets that I was fortunate enough to be exposed to and truly changed my life throughout my 20s. I am excited to further teach these tools through a variety of mediums in 2018.

 

Responsive Conference

2nd Annual Responsive Conference from Robin Zander on Vimeo.

The 1st annual Responsive Conference was a giant unknown as I had never previously curated and directed an event of that magnitude before. The 2nd Annual Responsive Conference was less of an exploration and more of a refinement. My single biggest goal was to form a cohesive organizing team, and in that I succeeded magnificently. Further, I sought to make intentional the curatorial choices I had begun in 2016 including factors like venue, speakers, and working with speakers to present fresh and relevant content. Across the board, the 2nd Annual Responsive Conference was a triumph. We had 225 people from more than 10 countries and with the help of my production team, the event went off pristinely. I am excited in 2018 to further refine and automate the processes that made the 2nd Annual Responsive Conference a success – aka to do less!

Responsive: What It Takes To Create A Thriving Organization

I have never been able to write as other than a very intentional act, and writing had been one of the primary things I avoided throughout most of 2017. Thus, I am thrilled to have actually publishedResponsive: What it Takes to Create a Thriving Organization which is a compilation of three years of interviews and curation on the future of work.

 

Relationships

Finally, and by no means least important, I entered into a new relationship midway through the year. I moved in with my girlfriend in December of 2017. This is far and away, the most significant romantic relationship I have ever had, and it’s no coincidence that we have become collaborators on multiple professional, as well as personal, projects. Relationships of all kinds are perhaps one of the three most important aspects in any of our lives, and I couldn’t be any more pleased with this developing romance.

What were your highlights in 2017? Lowlights? What do you want to build on in the year ahead? Let me know in the comments!

Categories
Entrepreneurship Learning Podcast Robins Cafe

Adam Pisoni and Robin Zander – Live at Robin’s Cafe

This episode was recorded in front of a live audience at Robin’s Cafe with Adam Pisoni, co-founder and former CTO at Yammer, co-founder of the Responsive Org movement, and founder and CEO at Abl Schools.

If you missed it, I recommend starting with our first podcast episode back in 2016!

In conversation from stage and then Q&A with the audience, we discussed founding Yammer, the Responsive Org movement, and his efforts at Abl Schools to revitalize the U.S.education system. Exciting possibilities emerge when we reconsider that even behemoth institutions like the U.S. education system can become Responsive!

Adam has implemented a variety of future of work principles at Abl Schools. He has been very open about the challenges of building a diverse founding team at Abl Schools.

While there is a lot of conversation about fostering an inclusive company culture, very few Silicon Valley companies have an equal gender split between male and female employees, and even fewer have women or underrepresented groups at the highest levels of leadership.

We will explore the challenges and lessons learned at Abl Schools, and tactics any founder can apply in the effort to build a Responsive organization.

Show Notes

4:00 Intentions
7:00 Yammer and Conway’s Law
10:00 Starting Responsive Org
11:45 Theory of Responsive
13:30 Challenges of these changes
16:00 Iterate in the shape of your organization
18:00 Adam mentions:

19:15 Adams transition to education
21:30 Mindsets
24:30 Dropping out of high school
26:30 Education limitations
30:00 Diverse founding teams – podcast and article
36:15 Social emotional skills
40:00 Responsive Org tensions
46:45 Balancing success and time with experimentation
51:30 Egos and fear of failure
53:30 Integrative decision making
57:30 Value of experience
1:01:00 Diversity
1:04:45 Abl’s work in public schools
1:07:30 Measuring impact
1:10:00 Playing with boundaries of leadership and structure
1:15:00 Hiring that focuses on diversity
1:20:00 Purpose of diversity
1:24:30 VC’s reporting on diversity of companies they fund
1:26:15 Robin’s Book: Responsive: What It Takes to Create A Thriving Organization

Don’t forget to give a listen to my first podcast with Adam Pisoni, as well.

If you have enjoyed The Robin Zander Show – which just passed 50 episodes! – or benefited from any of the work I’ve done over the last several years, take a look at my new book Responsive: What It Takes To Create A Thriving Organization.

It is out on Amazon. I’m extremely proud of this book, and it’d mean the world to me if you’d check it out!

Categories
Learning Physical Performance

Beyond Violence – Fighting, Aggression and My Study of Muay Thai

I took up Thai Kickboxing towards the beginning of 2016, after several years dedicated to the study of ballet. I had wanted more Muay Thai (the formal Thai name for the sport) ever since having tried the form for a few intense weeks in 2013. 

Early 2016 was a transitional time for me. I had just quit my full-time job for the educational company Socos, was exploring what would become the Responsive Conference, and looking for something to compliment my training in gymnastics and ballet. I joined “El Niño’s,” a fight gym in San Francisco owned by professional fighter Gilbert “El Niño” Melendez. Thai Kickboxing is an unusually effective form at the intersection between sport and practical self-defense. I had never thrown a punch and wanted to try.

As is often the case when I begin a new physical practice, I quickly began to take class 3 and then 5 days a week, and to practice ‘shadow boxing’ (sparing without a partner or bag) while on phone calls or in the shower. It was fascinating to see how much the intensity of the martial form complemented the rest of my life, and I found myself wanting more.

Muay Thai is called the “art of 8 limbs” because in addition to kicking and punching, the form uses elbows and knees. In traditional Thai fights, there is a great deal of ritual, followed by some of the most abrupt violence I have ever witnessed.

I have never been prone to violence. Growing up, my mother taught me to believe that violence should always be avoided. It wasn’t until my early 20s that I considered the difference between the concepts of aggression and violence. The practice of a deliberately violent sport was far outside my experience. In Muay Thai we train with heavily padded gloves and pads, and it is still scary to throw my weight into a punch at someone’s head. Above all, my study of the form was as an exploration of fear — the fear of getting hit and of hitting another (albeit, consenting) person.

I’m not proud of everything that came out of my time practicing Muay Thai; I experienced significant downsides. And through my daily study of controlled violence I discovered a level of confidence and courage that will serve me well for years to come.

From 4th grade until early high school, I was an outsider — the “sensitive” kid in a community that valued hyper-masculinity. I sported boy-band long blond hair in defiance of the buzz cuts of my peers. I was called “girl,” which was the biggest insult any of us could think of. I remember one day in 5th grade getting invited to play basketball, only to have the ball thrown at my face, breaking my nose.

Fortunately, I grew out of those years, and it took a decade to find an appreciation of team sports and even longer to begin practicing martial forms. That today I enjoy watching professional fighters compete would have shocked my 10- or 15-year old self.

I remember the first time I felt like a predator at El Niño’s. My fight gym has some world class fighters who practice with us. Merely hearing their exhalations when they strike is enough to make me want to take a step back, and the force of some of their explosive kicks against a bag makes me cringe.

In my first month, I was paired with a fellow — call him Miguel — who was in his first week. He was a few inches shorter and maybe 10 pounds lighter than me. We were taught a sequence of punches, kicks, elbows, and knees designed to help us practice a specific type of attack and defense. It wasn’t especially challenging to hold pads while Miguel executed this series against me. When it came my turn to attack, it was clear that he was tired and bit scared. Like a tiger sensing prey, my aggression spiked and I went after him more intensely. This aggressive drive continued to spiral, until I found myself thinking — through a fog of effort — “I could kill him!” While he was never in any danger, that fleeting thought — that I was capable of causing physical harm to another — rocked me.

I don’t walk around afraid anymore. When someone attempted to steal the tip jar at my café a month ago, I had no compunction about stopping him physically. I was also surprised at how angry I became.

In August 2016 I spent a week camping with my family in the Sierras. One evening we found ourselves in a heated discussion, and I got increasingly angry to the point that I literally punched a tree. My parents were shocked, in 30 years never having seen me angry to the point of violence. I was surprised, too, and somewhat bewildered by my own actions. My bloody knuckles were a useful reminder for the next several days.

This and similar violent outbursts could be attributed to the stress of my professional life — opening the café, running the Responsive Conference — but that would be false attribution. It was tied to the daily practice of violence and aggression. When I walked away from Muay Thai in September, I left behind the intensity of the practice and the anger.

I’m glad not be practicing Thai Kickboxing for the time being, and I’m extremely grateful for the range of experiences, practice facing fear, and understanding of violence I learned.

This post was originally published on Medium. If you’ve enjoyed this article, join my newsletter for a short weekly updates with articles, stories about building culture at Robin’s Cafe, and more.

Categories
Learning Physical Performance

I’m 29 and gave up everything to study ballet alongside high school students

I walk into the ballet studio at 3pm on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in San Francisco’s Castro District. I’m 29 and have been dancing ballet 6 or 7 days each week for more than a year. At this time of day, most of peers who work in technology in San Francisco, in science at University of California, San Francisco, or as doctors or lawyers, are looking forward to getting off of work soon and enjoying what’s left of the afternoon with friends. Instead, as I step through the ballet studio doors, I am enter a world filled with 14 year old dancers who have 10 years more ballet experience and better performance to show for it. I will be taking four ballet classes this evening, along side a group of students just finishing up high school.

My name is Robin, I’m 29 years old, and I’m new to ballet.

As you might guess, I did not grow up dancing. While I have always been physically active, on my family’s 4-acre farm and on the high school cross-country team, I didn’t start dancing until college. While attending Reed College, I discovered a love for movement and sports, and quickly started gymnastics, Capoeira, modern dance, and a variety of other forms. After college I attempted to train dance but the siren call of an adult life led me to explore other paths.

In the years since I’ve maintained a physical practice that has spanned gymnastics, Argentine tango, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and many other forms. But eventually I found myself drawn back to ballet, and especially the classical pas de deux and men’s technique that I couldn’t get outside of a very strenuous pre-professional ballet program.

In the last year I have made sacrifices to accommodate the schedule I now enjoy. I haven’t been able to enjoy the perks of a well-funded technology company or attend graduate school because those wouldn’t allow time for my practice of ballet. On the other hand, I did recently finish a 10-week contract performing with the San Francisco Opera’s Les Troyens.

My goal in sharing this story is to inspire others who have similar hesitations — at any age — to explore the things we believe we are too old to begin. You are never too old to start something new. I don’t have time right now to share the entire story. I have to get to class. But if my example can serve in any way, I hope that it can show that if you want something enough, you can get there.

This post was originally published on Medium. If you’ve enjoyed this post, join my newsletter for more on fear and physical learning.

Categories
Creative Entrepreneurship Learning Podcast Writing

Pam Slim on Capoeira, Building a Body of Work, and the Value of Small Business

 

My guest today is the award-winning author, speaker and small business strategist Pamela Slim (@pamslim).

I first began following Pam’s work with the publication of her first book, Escape from Cubicle Nation, and have watched with enthusiasm as she has transitioned over her career across several very different industries and classes of business.

Her latest, bestselling book, Body of Work, gives a fresh perspective on skills required in the new world of work for people in all work modes, from corporate to nonprofit to small business.

As the founder of K’é in downtown Mesa, Arizona, she now supports small businesses through classes, networking events, and virtual programs.

As the owner of a small cafe in the San Francisco Mission, I was very interested to hear Pam thoughts on why small business is not only necessary but also a great place to build within, with enormous potential.

We discuss a trait that Pam has embodied throughout her career, which I think of as being a lifelong learner or autodidact – and what Pam calls being a multipotentialite.

Pam will be speaking at the 2nd Annual Responsive Conference on Sept. 18-19th 2017 in NYC. I hope you enjoy this interview and hope you’ll consider joining us!

Show Notes

03:00 Capoeira
06:30 Lessons learned from Capoeira
09:30 Pam’s move to Mesa, Arizona – Pam mentions the film “Dolores” by Peter Bratt
14:15 Small business is sexy
18:30 Tactical learning
21:30 Work mode
27:30 Different aspects of self
29:30 Pam’s time in college studying in Mexico and Columbia
33:00 Having multiple career choices – Pam mentions How to Be Everything by Emilie Wapnick and her TED Talk
36:00 Body of Work in practice
38:30 Characteristics of Pam’s Incubator
41:00 Building networks
44:00 Growing small, innovative businesses in small, unexpected locations
49:15 New cities becoming hubs
52:00 Enjoying the process
55:00 Pam’s physical practice
57:45 Learn more about Pam:

Pam’s Website

2nd Annual Responsive Conference

58:30 Parting thoughts

If you enjoyed this episode with Pam Slim, I think you will enjoy the 2nd Annual Responsive Conference this September 18-19th in New York City. 

 

Could you do me a favor? If you’ve enjoyed the Robin Zander Show, I would really appreciate a review on iTunes. Reviews help others find the podcast, and more importantly let me know that you’re enjoying what you’re hearing. Thank you!

You can also keep track of the podcast and all of my projects via my newsletter. Just visit RobinPZander.com and click Newsletter.

Categories
Creative Learning Podcast

Megan Poe Teaches the Most Popular Class at NYU – on Love

Megan Poe is a psychiatrist and interpersonal psychoanalyst  who teaches one of New York University’s most popular and fastest-growing classes. Her topic? Love! At this year’s Responsive Conference, she’ll explore with us what it takes to live, love, and work well.

In addition to her professorship at NYU, Meg has a private practice in New York City. Meg’s mission is to help people feel most present and alive in their creative flow and inner life. She specializes in helping adults create more-intimate, fulfilling relationships in their lives and work.

In this interview we cover a ton of ground –  why Meg’s class at NYC is so popular, the definition of self-love, and how Meg thinks about love both chronologically over a lifetime, and in different roles – mentorship, familial love, romantic love, and more. We discuss Megs background as a doctor, but also her exploration into sound healing and kundalini yoga – and how these influence her work today.

I really enjoyed this wide ranging conversation and can’t wait to see her onstage at the 2nd Annual Responsive Conference. I hope you enjoy today’s interview with Megan Poe.

 

Show Notes

3:00 Meg’s class on love at NYU
9:30 Collaboration
13:00 Teams and projects that bring people together
16:30 Dream analysis
21:30 Kundalini yoga
24:45 Kundalini rising
28:30 Working with students
33:30 Love that is not regarded as love
37:45 How Meg began looking at love
42:30 Self acceptance
48:00 Expanding our understanding of love
50:30 Lack of self love
52:45 Tools for self love
1:01:30 Mixing science and art
1:06:00 Med school
1:10:00 Find Meg:

Meg’s Website
2nd Annual Response Conference

Books Meg mentions:

Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity by David Lynch
The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell
The Artist’s Way Morning Pages Journal by Julia Cameron

 

 

If you enjoyed this episode with Megan Poe, I think you will enjoy the 2nd Annual Responsive Conference, which will be taking place this September in New York City.

 

Could you do me a favor? If you’ve enjoyed the Robin Zander Show, I would really appreciate a review on iTunes. Reviews help others find the podcast, and more importantly let me know that you’re enjoying what you’re hearing. Thank you!