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Entries in category: Business

Defrag conference 2009 logoThe past year I've been speaking at several both large and small conferences in Norway, but this month I also went abroad to speak at the Defrag social technology conference in Denver, Colorado. This conference is one of the most interesting I have attended, so to share my experience I've written this piece about the experiences and insights that I got out of Defrag.

Now if you'd like to start off by getting an impression of what went on during the conference before I get into my analysis, then go have a look at the Defrag 2009 liveblog that Graeme Thickins did throughout the event. Another good starting point is to look at the twitter-talk that took place with the #defrag and #defragcon hash-tags, which is all documented at Defrag's EventVue page. Finally there is a guerilla video stream covering most of the conference that were being created and put online by ReussDesign. My talk on open data was also filmed by Reuss and can be found about 12 minutes into the recording titled "Defrag Conference Clip 4".

Learning to flyA more common look at creativity than the one I presented earlier is what could perhaps be called applied creativity, namely the type of creativity commonly associated with idea-meetings and brainstorming sessions. One of Norway's leading experts on such applied creativity is Stig Hjerkinn Haug of Stig&Stein Idèlaboratorium, which I've had the pleasure of meeting several times. Most recently this was at a meeting in the Norwegian engineers association Tekna, where he held one of his inspirational talks on fostering creativity and learning to fly!

Since the lectures of Stig are truly amazing, there is no substitute to attending one yourself. However I that is not an option for everybody, so while you might not learn to fly without actually being there I'll recap the highlights of his creative methods and some of his amazing stories here to try and give you at least a bit of air under your wings. Also remember that if this leaves you wanting more, then you can always buy Stig's books (in Norwegian) or even hire the man himself for a lecture or workshop. The stories he spin about his life with creativity are just incredible, and if you believe him mostly true as well. They include everything from practical tips on idea-generation to stories about inspired new ways of doing business, and how just being curious and doing things differently can be a powerful force in itself.

CreativityA few days ago I attended a very inspiring lecture called "The creativity of organizations". It was about how effective changes can be introduced to any organization to improve productivity, decrease sick days and increase motivation among employees. And all of this will be very noticeable in less than a year. Sounds impossible, doesn't it?

Well, not so according to Swedes Göran Erikson, initiator of Better Working Life, and Mats Birgerson, former CEO of the ventilation systems manufacturer Fresh AB that has proved such changes to be possible. Their theory is that motivation and productivity are directly influenced by the creativity of employees, and that the keys to fostering an improved and more creative working environment is to accommodate freedom, understanding, participation and contributions at all levels of an organization. Under their management they have successfully implemented a range of changes to this effect in dozens of organizations across Norway and Sweden. Fresh AB did for instance, despite the ventilation-industry having a negative market development, go from beeing an apparently doomed business heading towards bankruptcy, to having a 50% productivity increase per employee that allowed a tripling of their staff and being named among the top 25 employers in Europe in less than five years.

This amazing achievement and the ideas they presented are certainly very intriguing, and many of them are absolutely worth their salt. I can myself vouch for the advantages of several of the changes they suggested as I have personally experienced them in action at my former employer. For me it was both motivating and inspiring to work in a culture of responsible freedom and mutual respect, and I believe that this applied to most of my co-workers as well. But how exactly does one create such an environment? Below I've compiled an overview of some of the ways to go about this that was mentioned in the lecture.

Elevator signWhile doing my Masters degree I used to volunteer for the student organization Start Norway, an organization working to promote entrepreneurship and innovation among students and faculty staff at higher-learning institutions all across Norway. This experience inspired me to apply for a graduate programme called the Norwegian School of Entrepreneurship, where I was accepted and got to spend three months studying and working as an intern in the heartland of IT, Silicon Valley. Both during my volunteering and during the entrepreneurship programme there was of focus on learning and doing the so called "elevator pitch", a very valuable skill that everyone should learn and perfect for their own needs.

For those not familiar with the term, an "elevator pitch" is simply a short practiced speech that explains in an enticing way what you do during the time one usually spends in an elevator, often 30 seconds or less. And why an elevator in particular? Because it is based on the assumption that if you by chance should find yourself in the unique opportunity of being in an elevator with someone you badly want or need to talk to, having a prepared elevator pitch to present might pique the other persons interest enough for you to get a real meeting later, and with that a real chance to present your business or idea properly.

That's not to say this is only applicable in elevators of course, as using it successfully in an elevator will likely be a very rare occurrence for most people. However it is also a very useful and efficient way to present yourself to new people in various other settings, for instance when people at a party ask what you do, or when you are presenting yourself at networking events. Having a good elevator pitch prepared in such situations lets you stand out and be interesting to the people you talk to, and lets you avoid having to say those conversation killing words: "I'm a consultant"

So how do you prepare a good elevator pitch then? Well, like most things there is no single answer to how to make the perfect pitch, but good suggestions abound on the Internet so check out these resources:

And finally have a look at other peoples pitches to see how yours compare!

Pirate flagChris Brogan recently wrote a very thought-provoking post about how businesses could deal better with hard times through the time-tested strategies used by pirates on the high seas. The analogy may be historically flawed, but the concept itself is surely one to take note of, and one that resonates very well with Nietzsche's concept of creative destruction, as named by economist Joseph Schumpeter.

That this is how the world of business actually works might not be obvious at first glance, but this has been thoroughly researched as presented in detail by Richard Foster and Sarah Kaplan in their book by the same name. It was among the readings for a university-course I once did on ICT and Markets, and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone working on business strategy, should that be for a company or just for yourself.

Finally I present you with a more personal take on creative destruction, as put forward by Rachel Cornell like this:

"When you find your life is in pieces, don’t get out the super glue. Find the shard that matters the most to you, the one element that you are the most passionate about and build something great out of that."