ISA’s 2019 Thought Leader Award Recipient

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, the Ernest L. Arbuckle professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and Chair and Director of the Harvard University Advanced Leadership Initiative, received the 2019 Thought Leader Award at ISA’s Annual Business Retreat this year. The award recognizes those whose body of work in support of work-related learning and performance has significantly influenced people and organizations.

Shortly before the Retreat, ISA Board Member Tricia Naddaff, President of Management Research Group, had the opportunity to present the award to Rosabeth at Harvard Business School and talk with her about her work, her perspective on today’s challenges and what continues to inspires her today.

Shortly before the Retreat, ISA Board Member Tricia Naddaff, President of Management Research Group, had the opportunity to present the award to Rosabeth at Harvard Business School and talk with her about her work, her perspective on today’s challenges and what continues to inspires her today.


What followed was a wide-ranging conversation about topics ranging from change, innovation and the evolution of democracy to gender equality, the energizing effect of taking action and “Kanter’s Law: Everything looks like a failure in the middle.”

The video of that conversation shows that Rosabeth’s work and voice are more urgent, thought-provoking and relevant than they’ve ever been. She also delivers a call to action for leaders everywhere to step up to the big challenges of today, for the good of everyone. As she says, “If we want to be healthy, we need purpose and meaning. If we want to be healthy, we need to tackle things.”

Watch the video: 2019 ISA Thought Leader Award Recipient Rosabeth Moss Kanter Interview

Are You Prepared to Create and Lead the Future?

It doesn’t require a #10YearChallenge to notice that things have changed pretty dramatically over the past decade — and we’re not just talking about hairstyles. So we can only imagine what the next ten years will bring us.

For Bob Johansen, thinking about the future is more than just an interesting exercise; it’s his mission. A distinguished fellow and past president of the Institute for the Future (IFTF), Bob has built up a remarkable track record of accuracy in his ability to forecast ten years into the future. Of course, the predictions are only part of the story. Bob’s challenge to leaders is to mine insights out of those forecasts and then turn those into actionable steps to create their future.

In 2010, Bob delivered a keynote and follow-up session at the ISA Annual Business Retreat on the external “future forces” that would be affecting leaders in the decade ahead, along with the leadership skills that would be required as a result. It hasn’t quite been ten years, but we’re pretty close to it, and Bob will be joining us again at the 2019 ABR to kick off the Fearless and Focused theme with a conversation about “spectrum thinking,” a skill he sees as mandatory for leaders to be able to thrive in the future.

Before we look ahead, though, let’s take a quick look back at just a few of Bob’s predictions from his ABR appearance in 2010. See if any of these resonate with you:

  1. Choose your own learning adventure: The tech world of 2010 was dominated by voice and text technologies. IFTF predicted that, by 2020, cloud computing would take over, including cloud video, web, GPS, sensors and more. “The network is the computer” would finally come true, transforming learning, leadership, the industry and every person. About learning, in particular, Bob said, “People will choose their own learning resources to filter their experience of the physical world.”
  2. Everyone will be a maker, and everyone will be a learner: Bob predicted a rise in the “Maker Instinct,” where a culture of makers and a DIY spirit transform how things are designed, manufactured and distributed. That may have foreshadowed the hipster craftsperson down the block selling artisanal wares on Etsy, but it also referred to the explosion of the Internet of Things, with wearables, connected devices and apps allowing people to take more control and “learn in place” — or any place.
  3. Try, learn, improve, repeat: With it becoming easier and more feasible to develop prototypes and quickly get them out in front of your audience, there would be more opportunities for businesses to create, test and get real-time insights from customers on new products and services. This capability would usher in a new era of businesses learning through rapid prototyping.
  4. Learning goes communal: From social media to online sharing platforms and communities, new technologies of cooperation would enable the shift toward skills that leverage the collective intelligence of others. These “amplified learners” create profiles, share information, seek out communities, contribute new knowledge and ideas, and learn from each other and their collective experience.
  5. Learning goes viral: Given the choice, learners in 2020 would opt for video as the medium for learning, Bob noted, adding that learning requires engagement, and engagement would be happening in the cloud. Even more broadly, video would become a part of almost every organizational strategy, with an increase in “amateur” videos mixed in with broadcast quality media.

What will you see when you look back from the 10 Year Challenge of 2029?

In 2010, Bob told ISAers that innovation in the cloud would offer the biggest learning opportunity in history. Learners would no longer be passive recipients, but active participants and co-creators. Clearly, the past ten years have proven much of that hypothesis out. And a host of disruptors and startups have come along to take advantage of some of those huge opportunities in the learning industry.

With technology accelerating the pace of change, the next ten years will surely bring more disruption and more opportunity. You won’t want to miss Bob’s Sunday afternoon keynote at the 2019 Annual Business Retreat to get a valuable head start on creating your business’s future.

Haven’t registered yet? Time’s running out! Register here.

A Meeting of the Minds: 6 Takeaways from ISA’s 2018 Sales and Marketing Conference

Who’s Brella? What’s a Vidyard? Why should we obsess about a “uniting idea”? And just what docustomers really think?

Sales and marketing leaders from ISA firms gathered in Tysons Corners, Virginia, this October to find answers to all these questions and more at ISA’s 2018 Sales and Marketing Conference. They not only learned from some of the leading thinkers in sales and marketing today, they had the chance to try out some new tools, pick up some strategic tips and share experiences with their industry colleagues. And with the helpful nudge of Brella (more on that in a minute), they came back to their offices with a broadened network of trusted colleagues to turn to for advice throughout the year.

But don’t just take our word for it. We asked participants about some of their most valuable takeaways and favorite features of this year’s conference. Here’s what they told us.

1. You can’t sell without being social:  One of the most buzzed-about sessions was Jamie Shank’s Social Selling Workshop. The author of “Social Selling Mastery” demonstrated a number of innovative selling and relationship-building tactics and tools — including LinkedIn Sales Navigator, PointDrive and Vidyard — that sales and marketing teams can integrate into their processes to connect with today’s digital buyer and accelerate sales success.
Based on Jamie’s advice, attendees say they’re going to be working more closely with their sales teams on developing their technical aptitude and social selling processes. As one participant said, the session has inspired them to “re-educate the team to a social selling routine that we can measure and report on.” Marketing teams plan to look at how to use social networking more effectively for lead generation.
2. Keep fine-tuning the sales process: A recurring theme in conference evaluations is the need to put more structure around the sales process. This might involve a review of the sales structure, talking to the sales team about what works for them in winning/losing sales, expanding sales to clients who may have moved to new companies, and making sure marketing and sales are aligned around new sales structures and playbooks.
3. Find that “uniting idea”: Kathleen Bowden of CXO Communication made a big impact with her session on branding. After discussing what C-suite buyers are looking for (relevance, differentiation, value, clarity and credibility), she emphasized the need to identify your brand’s differentiated brand opportunity. She calls this the “uniting idea” — the pivotal intersection of your clients’ pressing needs, your unique strengths, your business strategy agenda and your available competitive white space.
Kathleen also gave the group an outsider’s snapshot of what some of the ISA firms’ current uniting ideas appear to be. Participants left with inspiration and ideas about their brand’s uniting idea — as well as specific steps to take back with them so they can really nail it down.
4. Inject lead generation with empathy: Speaker Brian Carroll of markempa explored the power of empathy in understanding customer motivation and increasing lead conversion, a message that many attendees are taking to heart. We heard a number of ISA marketing leaders discussing the need to review personas, marketing content, messaging and the entire brand through the lens of empathy. They’re planning to interview clients to get a better understanding of what they really care about and how they feel, not just how they think. As Brian put it, to convert more leads, you have to “move from campaigns to conversations,” and that requires a lead nurturing approach that resonates emotionally, not just rationally.
5. Learn from the customer: Luckily, attendees didn’t have to go far to start picking up some valuable customer insights. Tony Rutigliano presented an engaging and provocative “voice of the customer” session that resonated with the group. Having spent time as a buyer of learning and development at ADP and Highmark Health and as a sales leader at Gallup and IBM, he had plenty of stories to share and lessons learned from both sides of the conversation.
6. Learn from each other: Attendees were introduced to the Brella networking app prior to the conference, which gave them a chance to get to know a little bit about each other before arriving in Tysons Corner. The app even scheduled meetings for people to connect up at specific times and places on site.

With plenty of time for networking and informal discussions, as well as specific break-outs for sales and marketing leaders to share best practices and brainstorm around big challenges, attendees left with new ideas as well as new connections and confidantes — something no app can replace. As one person said on their evaluation, number one on their to-do list after the conference: “Follow up with cool members I met.”

If you attended the conference, we’d love to hear about your takeaways and any new tools and strategies you’re putting in place as a result of what you learned. Share in the comments or over in the ISA LinkedIn Group.

Everything You Wanted to Know about GDPR, But Didn’t Know to Ask

If there’s one message Ralf Wolter would like all ISAers to take away from his two-part webinar series on General Data Protection Regulations  (GDPR) compliance, it’s this: Digital freedom ends where user freedom begins.

Wolter, who’s the founder of High-Performance Consulting & Coaching, kicked off the series with a high-level overview of the new E.U. regulation, including some background on how it came into being and how it affects ISA firms.

As he explains, the Internet was designed on the assumption that people would trust each other. But of course, hackers and a variety of other unscrupulous characters made it necessary to add in layers of privacy later on. GDPR’s intent is for organizations to start thinking about privacy from the beginning, guided by a principle of “privacy by design and default.” In other words, whether you’re developing apps, setting up websites, collecting customer data or storing information about training participants, user privacy should be at the forefront, not an afterthought.

The reform actually consists of two elements: (1) GDPR, which is designed to increase access to and control of personal data, and (2) the Data Protection Directive, which focuses on cross-border cooperation of police and justice.

Let’s Talk About Data

There are different types of data that you might collect, and GDPR treats them differently. Personal data includes the basics, like names and email addresses, while sensitive personal data might include things like party affiliation, union membership, prison records and information about children. Sensitive data needs to be treated with higher security, so the first question to ask is, “What kind of data are we collecting and processing?” Also consider, “Who collects and processes data on our behalf?” This could include accounting, email marketing and similar services. You’ll need to sign a data protection agreement with those providers.

Here are some of the key points to keep in mind in terms of GDPR’s requirements around data collection:

  1. People need to actively opt in: If you want to collect personal data on someone, you need their explicit agreement. Consent can’t be given by default with pre-checked boxes or pre-filled forms, for example. Automatically signing people up for your newsletter when they visit your website or download something also won’t fly. Data extends to people’s likenesses too, so you must have active consent from anyone who’s recognizable in photos you use. This means you can’t get by with a sign that says, “By entering this room, you agree…” You have to give the person a choice.
  2. Don’t collect more than you need: Data minimization is a key tenet of GDPR, which stipulates that the data you collect must be “adequate, relevant, and limited to what is necessary in relation to the purposes for which [data] are processed.” Consider how much information is legitimately necessary for someone to download a white paper or access other resources from you.
  3. Don’t keep it for longer than you need: GDPR also specifies how long you can retain information: “as long as is required to achieve the purpose for which data were collected and are being processed.”
  4. People have a right to know what you’re collecting about them: When someone asks you what information you’re collecting and storing about them, you have 4 weeks to reply. If you don’t, that person has a right to file a complaint, and local authorities are required to respond to their complaint.
  5. People have a right to be forgotten: By the same token, if someone requests that you delete their information, you have to reply to them, and you have to delete the data (assuming you’re not legally required to retain the information) — and not just in a single database but in all areas where it resides, including back-ups.
  6. Employees are people too: GDPR doesn’t differentiate between customers and employees, so this is a good time to make sure your internal data is protected as well.

Where to Begin with GDPR

Wolter recommends following a strategy of risk minimization. Consider where you have the most immediate risk and start there. Here are a few steps every organization should begin with:

  • Update your website, including your privacy statement and cookie policy.
  • Review your opt-in/consent processes for newsletters and other services, and move to double opt-in.
  • Minimize the amount of data you collect and retain.
  • Find out if you’re required to have a Data Protection Officer (and appoint one if you are).
  • Create an inventory of the personal data you collect. (Access a Google Sheets template for this purpose here.)
  • Incorporate data protection into daily business. Privacy should be baked in, not an afterthought.

Ready to get more detailed? Part 2 of Wolter’s webinar provides 10 concrete steps towards GDPR compliance.

Why Bother?

What’s in it for you to get compliant? For one, Wolter emphasizes the penalty of non-compliance — fines of up to 20 million euros or 4% of your global revenue, whichever is higher. It’s also worth noting that GDPR is just the beginning of this movement toward increased privacy and data protection measures. In Australia, the Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) scheme went into effect in February of this year, and in the U.S., the California Consumer Privacy Act will take effect on January 1, 2020, with many similar requirements. Others are sure to follow.

But even if you don’t currently have customers or employees in the E.U. or other covered areas, Wolter encourages you to recognize the benefits of compliance and lead by example. When you demonstrate to your customers that you care about their privacy, you’ll stand out and win their trust. With more and more high-profile data breaches making headlines, privacy is increasingly important to your customers, and they want to know that it matters to you too.

To take a readiness assessment and find answers to questions posed by ISAers on the webinars, be sure to listen to the webinar recordings and download the accompanying slides (see below), which include additional technical information, recommendations, planning tools and reference material.

8/10/18 Webinar: Everything You Wanted to Know About GDPR and Are Free To Ask
View recording
GDPR self assessment questionnaire
Session PowerPoint slides

9/7/18 Webinar: 10 Concrete Steps to get GDPR Compliant
View recording
Session PowerPoint slides

Change Your Perspective and Change the Game

People are still talking about that moment. It was the final day of the ISA Annual Business Retreat, and members sat anxiously awaiting the marketing audit from Equiteq’s Pat Webb, eager to see how the different firms’ value propositions and messaging stacked up. Who would stand out? Where might inspiration come from? What glimmer of insight would be picked up from Pat’s face or tone as she reviewed the different messages? (And, deep down, won’t everyone be impressed with my firm’s work?)

No one was expecting what actually happened.

As the moment arrived, Pat began to click through the PowerPoint slides, and that’s when the harsh reality kicked in. One after another after another, near-identical messages flashed on the screen. The benefits were indistinguishable, the personalities uniformly . . . generic. Some members even had trouble figuring out which one was their own company’s message.

These were all well-informed leaders, with unparalleled depth of industry knowledge and a keen focus on the competitive landscape, market opportunities and the latest marketing concepts. So is it actually possible that they were completely unaware of this? Did they really have no idea they were saying pretty much exactly the same things as every other leading firm in the industry?

Were they that oblivious to the obvious?

In a way, yes.

What We Manage Not To Know
Margaret Heffernan, our kick-off keynote speaker at the 2018 Annual Business Retreat, is an entrepreneur, former CEO and author of a number of books, including “A Bigger Prize” and “Willful Blindness,” which the Financial Times named one of the best books of the decade in 2014. In that book and her TED Talks, she examines this phenomenon of willful blindness from all angles, with a particular focus on why businesses and the people who run them often ignore the obvious. As she explains:

Willful blindness is a legal concept which means, if there’s information that you could know and you should know but you somehow manage not to know, the law deems that you’re willfully blind. You have chosen not to know. There’s a lot of willful blindness around these days. You can see willful blindness in banks, when thousands of people sold mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them. You could see them in banks when interest rates were manipulated and everyone around knew what was going on, but everyone studiously ignored it . . .Willful blindness exists on epic scales like those, and it also exists on very small scales, in people’s families, in people’s homes and communities, and particularly in organizations and institutions.

One question Margaret will challenge us with in Tucson is this: “How come the problems we write about and talk about don’t seem to be getting any better?”

You could easily become depressed by such a thought, but the question can also become the spark that energizes you to take off the blinders, look at problems in a new way and find new paths to success in your business and personal life.

Thinking Fresh to Find a New Way Forward
A Schumpeter piece in The Economist, bluntly titled Management theory is becoming a compendium of dead ideas, notes, “Management theorists need to examine their church with the same clear-eyed iconoclasm with which Luther examined his. Otherwise they risk being exposed as just so many overpaid peddlers of dead ideas.”

Sure, that’s a bit extreme. But as Margaret points out — and as we can all agree, if we’re not being willfully blind — the world of business thinking is filled with the jargon of failed ideas. Sometimes we’re solving the problem, but sometimes we’re creating it. As a result, employees, consumers and citizens have less trust in business than ever. When everything has changed, and the stakes keep getting higher, we can’t just keep going along like we always have.

The good news is, there’s something liberating about looking at old (and new) problems with fresh eyes and giving yourself and your team the permission to get real about them. The even-better news? ISA members don’t have to figure it all out on their own. In addition to speakers like Margaret, who will be bringing the insights from her research and hands-on work with CEOs around the world, you’ll have the benefit of the incredible brain trust of the ISA member community at this year’s Annual Business Retreat — and all year long.

Meanwhile, as we look around in 2018 and see the big institutions failing to live up to their promises or getting mired in chaos and gridlock, it could be that business has not only an opportunity but a critical role to play. Are we in a position to inspire and encourage more, from our own organizations and our clients’ organizations? What can we contribute from our thinking, expertise, observations and work with people in organizations across the globe?

In Tucson this March, you’ll have the chance to tackle these provocative questions head on and take back practical strategies for creating your game plan for the future. As Margaret says, “Let’s not play the game, let’s change it.”

Busy Is Best–Says Who?

“I’m just so busy.”

It’s like an auto-reply message we’ve all turned on in response to the question, “How are things?”

How are things?! Ugh, it’s so busy. There’s much going on. So much to do!

Earlier this year at ISA’s Annual Business Retreat, however, Juliet Funt, the owner of WhiteSpace at Work, asked members a different question:

“When was the last time you caught someone thinking at work?”

Well, that stops you in your tracks.

Just about every organization has experienced the effects of disruption and change to one degree or another over the past several years. And it’s left us feeling like we’re in a constant sprint to stay ahead. At this time of year especially, it’s a mad dash to the finish line as we hustle to get everything wrapped up and tied down before the holidays—and before the frenzy picks right back up where it left off on January 2nd. There’s simply no time to think.

But what are we losing in this constant frenzy of activity? As Juliet pointed out, so many companies, their leaders and, as a result, their employees have traded full-speed exertion for essential thinking time. The mental power that is so critical to the future of our businesses is being wasted on “low-value touchpoints” and unproductive busyness.

“Thoughtfulness isn’t ‘in’ any more,” she points out, “so even though we live in the world of ‘thought factories,’ we sit with all this waste around us and do nothing about it.”

As you prepare for a new year, now is the perfect time to resolve, once and for all, to do something about it.

Reclaiming the Time to Think (continued below)

Juliet encourages leaders to sanction WhiteSpace—a strategic pause between activities. If this sounds like an impossible dream, or a way to exacerbate your already-overloaded calendar and to-do list, maybe you’re missing the real culprit here. Are you filling your schedules and lists with truly valuable work? Most of us have not only adapted to this frenzied pace, we’ve become numb to it. We don’t realize how much of our time gets stolen away.

Think about it:

  • Does every email require an instant response (or even a response at all)?
  • Are people in your company conditioned to believe that they’d better respond immediately?
  • Do you need a full hour for every meeting just because that’s the default setting on your calendar?
  • Is it really going to make a difference if you change the size of the box on that PowerPoint slide one more time?

When you start to tally it up, you’ll begin to see all those places where that thinking time is actually there, just waiting for you to reclaim it.

Here are a few ways to do it:

1. Take stock: You can start by tracking how you’re currently using your time. Use a time tracking tool or simply log it in a notebook. Get it all down. Everything. Then review it and look for patterns. Are certain activities taking more time than they should? Are you allowing low-value touchpoints and other activities to creep into your routine? Make note of what’s stealing your time.

2. Reframe it: Author Laura Vanderkam suggests changing your language to remind you that “time is a choice.” She advises, “Instead of saying ‘I don’t have time,’ try saying ‘it’s not a priority,’ and see how that feels.” It’s a simple shift, but it can completely reframe the way you see your choices and how they affect you. Is Thinking isn’t a priority really what you want to be communicating—to yourself and to your staff?

3. Install filters: Juliet points out that we all have good qualities that, when taken to their extreme, can turn into “productivity thieves.” Drive becomes overdrive. Excellence morphs into perfection. Information becomes overload. Activity turns into frenzy. She offers some filtering questions to help combat those thieves. Ask yourself:

(Overdrive) Is there anything I can let go of?
(Perfection) Where is “good enough” good enough?
(Overload): What do I truly need to know?
(Frenzy) What deserves my attention?

4. Find a buddy: We often don’t see the behaviors in ourselves, but we’ll instantly see them in others. This is why it’s so helpful to have trusted sounding boards we can turn to. They’re the people who will call us out on our “stuff” and help us stay accountable to our goals—and vice versa. ISAers use both informal channels to do this as well as formal groups like Raft Groups for confidential insights, sanity checks and support.

Don’t let “I’m so busy” be your standard reply in 2018. Now more than ever, thinking is a priority, for your team, your business and yourself. Make sure it receives the status it deserves.

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