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Entrepreneurship Goals Marketing Podcast Responsive

Be More Loving with Sales – Zander Media Strategy Sessions

Recently while in NYC, I led a strategy workshop for an exclusive group of CEOs and founders who are building companies designed to thrive in the modern world.

Here, we discuss how to have more authenticity in our sales. Respecting others’ time and double checking that they are still available and willing to speak gives you initial buy in to the conversation.

You are much more likely to have a connection that will result in the long-term outcome you desire if you put the other person’s needs at the forefront. Focus on how you would like to show up for the conversation, because you are more likely to be successful if you sell lovingly than if you sell aggressively. Being present and considerate will amplify what you already do and who you really are.

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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
Culture Entrepreneurship Marketing Podcast Responsive

Responsive Organizations with President of Pepsi, Simon Lowden

My guest today is the President of Pepsi Global Foods, Simon Lowden. Simon has been the driving force over the last 10 years at turning Pepsi into a forward-thinking and self-iterating company. He is incredibly thoughtful when it comes to marketing and Responsive organizations, and in today’s conversation, we dive deep into some of the philosophies that he has implemented over the span of his career. He offers tactical advice on how to work well with teams and build a future focused organization. I hope you enjoy!

Podcast Notes:
3:00 How Simon found Responsive
5:00 Building a team
7:45 Why Pepsico brought Simon on
10:45 How Simon stays current in marketing
12:45 Balancing the internal politics of the organization
with staying fresh with consumer attention
15:45 Marketing platforms on the rise
18:15 Plastics Project
21:15 Three local rules of the Plastics Project
25:30 Simon mentions: If by Rudyard Kipling
26:00 Simon’s thoughts to the Responsive community
28:00 Steps towards being plastic-free
31:30 Begin with trust
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 Podcast Responsive Robins Cafe

How To Tell Your Story – Robin Zander at HR Transform

This is a talk that I gave at the HR Transform conference in Las Vegas to the Heads of HR of some of the fastest growing tech companies you have definitely heard of. The context for my talk was storytelling. I pulled on my experience at Robin’s Cafe and Responsive Conference to help others tell their story.

In today’s world, it’s not enough to just have a great company culture – you have to share that story with the world.

The aspects that make your organization unique create incredibly compelling narrative. It has never been easier to get your ideas out – to your company, your customers, and the broader world.

Find the reason you do the work you do, and share that out with the world.

Categories
Podcast Responsive

Brave New Work with Aaron Dignan

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.

Welcome back to another episode of the Robin Zander Show! I’m thrilled to share today’s interview with Aaron Dignan, author of the new book Brave New Work, as well as founding member of Responsive Org.

In today’s interview, Aaron and I discuss his work with The Ready, supporting the growth of some of the biggest companies in the world, how he came to co-found Responsive Org, and the idea of an organization’s “Operating System” – the driving principles and practices which shape an organization.

We dig into two specific aspects of the OS Canvas: strategy and compensation. How does any company – from AirBNB to Robin’s Cafe develop and hone a strategy that supports the company, and its people. But then, more tactically, Aaron lays out specifics approaches to compensation and pay that decrease stress and uncertainty at work and allow everyone to focus on doing work that matters.

I hope you enjoy this conversation with Aaron Dignan!

Show Notes

2:20 How Aaron found himself looking to change the future
7:00 OS Canvas
10:00 Strategy
14:00 Correcting course to find control
17:00 Finding purpose and serving that purpose
20:00 Compensation
22:15 Compensation model for new companies
27:00 Inspiring companies:
Everlane, Inspiral, Bridgewater
– Mentions Principles by Ray Dalio
31:00 Returning choice back to the local environment
34:00 Amazon and Whole Foods
40:00 Future of education
– Adam Pisoni podcast part 1, and part 2
42:00 Tactical takeaways
45:00 Find Aaron:
Brave New Work
The Ready
Twitter: @aarondignan

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
Creative Culture Entrepreneurship Podcast Responsive

Responsive Audiobook: Chapter 10, Conclusion

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:

To tackle 21st-century challenges organizations may need to structure themselves quite differently than they have historically.

Throughout this book, we have seen a wide variety of examples of Responsive principles in practice. A common theme is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to how we structure the organizations of today. Instead, each of us must find a level of comfort with the particular Responsive systems and processes that support our needs. If an organization’s leaders can be honest with themselves about current realities—what is working and what isn’t—they may find that to remain adaptable requires changes to their organizational structure.

A resilient organization adapts itself, constantly, to the ecosystem within which it exists. The era of Taylor’s principles of scientific management is over; but instead of disregarding Taylorism or any models for organizing, a Responsive organization keeps in mind those ideas without losing sight of the new demands placed upon organizations today.

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 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

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Culture Entrepreneurship Podcast Responsive

Bob Gower at Responsive Conference 2016 – “How Not to Join a Cult”

Bob Gower (@bobgower) helps organizations become faster, better, and happier. He is an authority on agile development, lean theory, and responsive organizational design, and the author of “Agile Business: A Leader’s Guide to Harnessing Complexity“.

Bob has advised leaders at numerous companies—including GE, Ford, Chanel, and Spotify—in creating more effective organizations. He holds an MBA in Sustainable Management, is a Certified Positive Psychology Practitioner, and speaks and publishes regularly on what it takes to build great organizations.

Bob is the author of the new book “Getting to Hell Yes”, along with his wife Alexandra Jamieson, and together they will be leading a workshop at Responsive Conference 2018 on generative conversations that will change your business (and the rest of your life).

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

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

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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

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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

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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

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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 Physical Performance Podcast Responsive

Mark Fisher on Serious Fitness for Ridiculous Humans

My guest today is Mark Fisher, who regularly shows up wearing a unicorn head – atypical of someone who runs several gyms in midtown manhattan. Mark is the co-owner of Mark Fisher Fitness and the consulting group, Business for Unicorns.

Mark and I share a common background in the performing arts, and it was fun for me to hear how Mark has taken that background and applied it to his entrepreneurial efforts both at his gyms and as a consultant. As someone who has long thought of creating a gym or physical center, I loved this conversation. Even more so, though, Mark’s passion for culture and people shone through.

I’m also pleased to share that Mark Fisher is going to be one of our speakers at Responsive Conference 2018, which will be taking place on September 24th and 25th in New York City. Pick up a ticket to hear him speak live.

I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did!

Show Notes
3:30 Balancing ridiculousness at Mark Fisher Fitness
9:15 Starting a fitness business
12:30 Combining creativity with vision execution
15:00 Business for Unicorns
19:45 Soft skills in hard systems and the Unicorn Society
22:00 Current state of fitness
26:00 Advice for building a gym
31:00 Books:

33:30 Loving community
38:00 Cultural health
40:00 What’s next for Mark
43:15 Constant improvement
48:00 Find more about Mark:

Categories
Podcast Responsive

How To Run an Un-Conference

How to Run an Un-Conference

Organizing events is a community effort, especially events as open to interpretation as an un-conference. I first sat down with a small group interested in Responsive Org events in 2015. Of that initial group Steve Hopkins was a founding member of the Responsive Org movement, Dori Rutkevitz was an active organizer in the related Reinventing Organizations community, and all of us were enthusiastic to learn more. Steve’s initial proposal to organize an un-conference was met with enthusiastic support by everyone at the table, followed promptly by “What’s an Un-conference?”

In the two years following that first meeting, I have produced and directed more than a dozen un-conferences and several more formal events. This short article is the playbook I wish I’d had when I began organizing events.

What is an Un-conference

An un-conference is any event where the agenda is set by those who attend. The rules of an un-conference are simple:

Rule #1: Whoever shows up are the right people
Rule #2: Whatever happens is fine
Rule #3: Whenever it starts is the right time
Rule #4: It is over when it’s over

In less flowery language this just means ditch expectation and don’t try to control the experience.

Flow of the Day

After attendees arrive, an empty conference agenda is posted on the wall with time slots and a variety of meeting spaces. Leaders share a theme or question they would like to discuss and post it in a time slot. If you post a topic, it is your responsibility to turn up to that session and introduce your topic or question. If you are not hosting a session, you are free to attend whichever of the sessions you are interested in.

Attendees are encouraged to adopt any of a number of roles:

Leader — who is facilitating each breakout
Scribe — is someone responsible for taking notes for each group
Nomads — give attendees permission to move between break-outs

The Law of Two Feet

Everyone at an un-conference is encouraged to practice the law of two feet. The law of two feet says that if you become uninterested at any point, you are encouraged to leave and join another session. In an un-conference you are also invited to take breaks at any time, with the idea that it is sometimes in the breaks that the ‘A-ha’ moments arrive.

Roles & Responsibilities

There are three main components necessary to a successful event — recruiting, production, and a strong facilitator.

A Word on Recruiting

In my experience, it is helpful to have an extended network to help with recruiting, not just a single person. All other logistics can be handled by a single person.

Production

Among the organizers, someone has to be in charge of logistics, including:

— Venue sourcing and on-going communication
— Setting the date
— Attendee arrival emails
— Day-of logistics
— Recruiting

Facilitation

A strong facilitator can make or break any event, but especially one with as fluid an agenda as an un-conference. Facilitator on the day of the event. It is essential to have one strong facilitator overseeing each un-conference, to welcome attendees and provide context for the event.

How to Facilitate an Un-Conference

Here are some tips, most learned the hard way over hundreds of hours of practice in the last two years.

1. Stay Centered

Despite having spent a fair amount of time on stage, I found myself getting nervous and feeling rushed in the hours leading up to a day-long un-conference. My single biggest piece of advice for a facilitator is to arrive with plenty of time to spare so you won’t feel rushed. You are responsible for the framework within which the attendee experience takes place. As such, staying grounded and centered is the single most important thing you can provide, even though in the moment it may feel like it is more important to make sure the space is set up or the coffee is ready.

2. Don’t Participate

This one might seem odd. It can seem like the entire point of organizing an event is to participate. In my experience, doing so decreases the ease with which I was able to coordinate new sessions, lead an end-of-day wrap-up, and refocus attendees when necessary.

In my view, the facilitator of the un-conference is there in service to the attendees. I have found it gets in the way of the attendee experience to actively participate in sessions and workshops that occur throughout the day.

3. Practice

The facilitator should practice before the beginning of the un-conference. Review these guidelines for a successful un-conference and be able to describe un-conference rules from memory. Practice your welcome speech.

4. Incorporate movement

I have always found it very useful to incorporate movement into events. When we have short periods of movement interspersed with other kinds of learning, we shortcut the passive sit-and-absorb tendencies we all learned through the education system, and which have carried over into most events. Read this article on the importance of movement within events.

Conclusion

Events are a lot of work, and sometime I have learned to produce of necessity. However, in this hyperactive digital age, I’m convinced of the value of what Tony Hsieh calls “spontaneous collisions” — the value of people spontaneously cross paths. If you’re considering putting on an event of your own, I encourage you to do so. When we create a container — an event or gathering — we create the opportunity for emergent possibilities to fill the open space.

Interested in learning more about the un-conference format or the Responsive movement? Join our Future of Work mailing list or check out my new book Responsive: What It Takes To Create A Thriving Organization, which comes out tomorrow!

*Acknowledge: This un-conference format is derivation of Open Space Technology, founded by Harrison Ownen.