Thinking

You’re Not Failing Enough!

We’ve heard it and seen it a lot over the past 20+ years. People in the corporate world are afraid to push the limits and take a calculated risk. They want to be innovative, want to have an impact on their company’s bottom line or how it does business. But at the end of the day, they surrender to fear and do something safe. They do something that doesn’t make waves, something that won’t draw too much attention. What these people don’t realize is that in the waves is where the big ideas live—the real innovation, the real results. The most innovative minds in history (da Vinci, Picasso, Edison and dozens of others) have proven it over and over again—when it comes to innovation, failure is part of the process.

Even in business, we know that many of the people we consider to be the most successful entrepreneurs have failed more times than they have succeeded. These entrepreneurs lack the fear of failure and are driven to continue trying again and again. Ultimately, the success they achieve is at scale so great, it makes everyone else forget about their misguided ideas and botched attempts. Yet for some reason this thinking has evaded many in the corporate culture. So how does a company transform itself into a breeding ground for innovation where the fear of failure isn’t a paralyzing factor?

A few years ago, we had a client who wanted help generating ideas on how to bring innovation to life within his organization. To our surprise, we discovered that the biggest barrier to innovative thinking wasn’t a lack of ideas, but rather a lack of willingness to share those ideas. Our challenge soon shifted from promoting innovative thinking to creating an atmosphere that fostered it. Adding to the complexity of this challenge, was the fact that we were dealing with a global company and a wide range of business units.

Our solution was to remove people from the constraints of a work-based environment and inject them into a competitive, game-like atmosphere. One that promoted free thinking by placing a premium on speed, volume and diversity of ideas. Additionally, we used technology to eliminate the social and political barriers that often exist within a business by ensuring anonymity through user names.

Technology also played a role in capturing the ideas by preventing the facilitator or leadership from weighing the value and viability of the ideas as they were generated. The result? A fast-paced, highly efficient global idea generation session that allowed a leader to address small challenges or large initiatives while leveraging the full creative problem solving skills and thinking of their entire team.

Here are some lessons learned:

  1. Eliminate hierarchy from idea generation. Many workers are afraid that if they submit an idea or take a risk and it doesn’t pan out, their leaders will devalue them (and unfortunately in some cases, this is true). If you create an atmosphere where idea generation can be collected with some level of anonymity, the number of ideas captured are likely to increase exponentially.
  2. Invite everyone to the table. Don’t limit yourself by only capturing the ideas of a select group. Instead, extend the invitation to participate to a wide range of roles and encourage them to share their ideas and insight. You might be surprised by the source of your most innovative ideas.
  3. Leverage technology. Technology offers great potential for your organization to capture and share ideas on a grand scale—embrace it! The more people can share ideas and insight with one another, the greater the potential for innovation to evolve. Often times, a new idea will evolve as different minds see it from a new angle and apply it to other areas of thought.
  4. Create an atmosphere of fluid thinking. Put a premium on the speed, volume and diversity of the ideas that are generated. People are less likely to self-edit and more likely to expand their thinking outside of their comfort zone when the fear of being judged is eliminated.
  5. Incremental can be extraordinary. Contrary to popular belief, not all innovation requires revolutionary change. Smart yet incremental change can move the needle the most, and generally requires little effort to bring to life.
  6. Hold off on evaluating. Don’t try to determine the viability of an idea when it’s first presented. Let it sit for a little bit. Analysis generally paralyzes innovative thinking.

As many businesses look for ways to develop and grow their business they will come to the realization that their greatest potential for growth is through the thoughts and insights that their employees provide.

Give us a call or shoot us an email to find out more on how we did it and to see the projects!  From video production services, to brand stories, green screen, online video marketing, social media marketing, viral marketing or just simply needing a camera crew in Minneapolis or St. Paul, we do it all!

Tell Me a Story: The Power of Traditional Storytelling, Emotion and Employee Point of View

Let’s be brutally honest for a moment. Internally produced corporate videos have a fairly consistent history and reputation. Over the years they have come to be rated by something employees call, “The Yawn Factor.” For some reason, internally-facing videos have been given a free pass to be less than excellent, while consumer-facing videos are held to a much higher standard. We at Mojo Solo argue that it’s no longer acceptable to hold your employee facing messages to a lower standard than your customer facing messages. Both customers and employees deserve to be presented with media that will make them look twice, make them think, and will provide an “a-ha” moment that inspires in them a renewed commitment to your company’s brand.

But why do so many internally facing productions fall flat? Why do they seem destined to catch no one’s attention and inspire nothing but yawns? Tom Clifford, a multimedia consultant, rightly points to a phenomenon known as the “Safe” phenomenon.

“When it comes to producing corporate videos, most internal marketing departments create something ‘safe.’ ‘Safe’ works. ‘Safe’ is easy. ‘Safe’ will keep your job. ‘Safe’ gets me through the day.

Not really. ‘Safe’ doesn’t inspire conversations. ‘Safe’ doesn’t ignite action. ‘Safe’ doesn’t make me think harder. Or differently. Or stretch me. ‘Safe’ doesn’t make me go, ‘A-Ha!’”

We would also argue that the biggest common reason corporate videos don’t capture the hearts or minds of employees is this:

Corporate videos often lack 1) anything resembling a well-told story or 2) an actual person’s point of view. Thusly, it is unable to spark an emotional connection or inspire any positive reaction from an employee.

Riddle me this: If you release a video into the company intranet without a compelling story angle or human perspective, will it still make a sound?

Storytelling Stands Out
Even when an organization has produced an informational, high-definition video with slick-looking graphics and also has a proven distribution method for employees to see the videos, the messages can still fail. Simply put, if an internally facing video is missing a personal, human point of view, and is not harnessing the true power of story, it will most likely go unnoticed or unwatched.

Three basic techniques that will lead to better storytelling in corporate videos include:

Build an instant human connection.
iewers have a very basic desire to identify with someone in the video. We want to connect with one or more of the people onscreen, so let’s be sure to have some real people telling real stories in their own authentic voices. Here the “Voice of God” narration technique often need not apply.

Give the story some context.
How does this new initiative or campaign fit into the bigger picture? Who are the supporting players? What is the long term mission and how will this new adventure of a campaign help us achieve our common goals?

Keep it simple.
Tell a story that is easy to understand. Save the in-depth statistical analysis for the accompanying spreadsheets. The video is meant to inspire and energize. After the employees feel connected to a personally relatable mission, they will want to dig deeper into charts, spreadsheets and statistics. NOT during the video.

Like any good television commercial or program, you must work to engage your audience. Yes – this means employees, too!
A common thought among management might be, “My employees are already on board with the company. Just present them the information they need to do their jobs. They already understand the brand and are already inspired to participate in the new initiative or to be passionate advocates for the new product launch.”

It’s this kind of thinking that will lead to uninspired and disengaged employees. We’ve seen it happen. Instead, we challenge you to think of your employees as you would your customers (see our Brand is as Brand Does article for more on this) and put the same thought and effort into internally facing messages as you would into a customer facing commercial. Shouldn’t you treat employees as the best potential brand advocates you have?

The Benefits of Authentic Voice
At its essence, a video’s success will rely upon its ability to convey an authentic message from a real human’s point of view. Often to achieve this goal, we invite real employees to tell their own stories to other employees, rather than having the CEO or “Voice of God” narration do the storytelling. Let them tell it in their own words! This employee voice technique has had proven success for our clients and often results in:

Increased interpersonal connection and relationships between employees and management, which are critical to successful collaboration and result in higher productivity and engagement.

A strong feeling of community in the workplace. Employees want to come to work to collaborate with their peers.

A positive and accurate reflection of an organization’s culture. Identifying with an organization’s culture is a big factor in employee job satisfaction.

Whether it’s to announce a new company-wide innovation campaign or perhaps to recognize success stories within your organization, the next time you are considering producing an internally facing video, we hope you will consider crafting it in a manner that reflects what we’ve found to be successful:

Tell them a human story, which employees can connect with on an emotional level. And tell it to them using a human voice, from a point of view they can identify with. You just might notice your video getting a few second looks.

Give us a call or shoot us an email to find out more on how we did it and to see the projects!  From video production services, to brand stories, green screen, online video marketing, social media marketing, viral marketing or just simply needing a camera crew in Minneapolis or St. Paul, we do it all!

 

Brand is as Brand Does: Your Employees Are Your Customers, Too.

To truly reach employees and make your messages stick, you need to approach them as any company would approach their potential customers.

Sound crazy? We will attempt to de-crazy it for you. Check it out:

Employees are consumers of your messages, just as your customers are consumers of your product. Like your customers, your employees are busy. Their attention is being pulled in a dozen different directions at any given moment. Therefore, it takes strong, authentic and cleverly presented messages in order to cut through the day to day clutter and really reach an employee.

And we’ve found that when employees are treated not as assembly line producers, but rather as humans whose allegiance an organization is fortunate to have, something very beneficial happens—employees will work harder and better because they feel an emotional attachment to their employer. This is something theCEO of Southwest Airlines learned long ago – and to great benefit. Over the years, whenever reporters would ask CEO Herb Kelleher the secret to Southwest’s success, he had a consistent response. “You have to treat your employees like customers,” he told Fortune in 2001. Friends and peers of Kelleher’s would often see his philosophy in action.

“There isn’t any customer satisfaction without employee satisfaction,” said Gordon Bethune, the former chief executive of Continental Airlines, and an old friend of Mr. Kelleher’s. “He recognized that good employee relations would affect the bottom line. He knew that having employees who wanted to do a good job would drive revenue and lower costs.”

Makes sense, right? This next bit is a mouthful but break it apart piece by piece:

Beyond professionalism and happiness at one’s job, an employee’s sense of worth within the context of their work identity directly affects the quality of the service they provide in the eyes of their customers. Got that? Let’s look at it from another angle.

There are many ways to make your employees feel proud. Rewarding them is not something you can fake or buy off with shiny plaques or small bonuses. It’s something that has to feel real. You have to make them feel like they are always on a mission. They need to always feel good about the work they do for you.

The good news: this is really not a difficult goal to accomplish when you create authentic, emotional and dynamic employee messaging. Starbucks is doing it. So is Apple. So is L’Oréal.
And here’s another study:

Big River Telephone, BMW Canada and Charter Communications – all three of these companies have leaders that continually stressed the importance of treating employees with the same respect and value as customers to achieve long-term business success. This approach is currently delivering growth for all three of these organizations.

And recent studies of factors common to successful companies, conducted by Max Clarkson have found that those companies whose goals reflect the interests of not just major shareholders and owners, but give serious consideration to employee and customer satisfaction — produce better results. This tells us that those companies focusing exclusively on the financial interests of shareholders at the expense of customers and employees are actually shortchanging themselves. They are, in fact, weakening the organizational conditions that would account for 40 to 80 percent of their overall growth and profitability over the long term.

Another study found that those companies with the highest employee and customer retention rates (“loyalty”) also earn the strongest profits. Put simply, if you pay attention to those conditions that empower employees to do a good job, customers will stick around and in turn, revenue and profits will grow.

Another beneficial side effect of empowered employees is retention. It is pointless to talk of building long-term customer relationships if you have high employee turnover. A constant cycling of employees makes it impossible for them to build long-term relationships with customers. Don’t expect to have long-term customers without long-term employees.

In recent years, a customer focused approach has become the mantra of many Fortune 500 companies. But we must remember that before we congratulate ourselves with a “customer comes first” mission statement, we need to first take care of our own troops. In doing so, there will be big rewards in the form of long-term loyalty and more positive brand experiences for all.

When you pull back the curtains, what we are essentially looking to do is build a psychological contract in which employees feel valued by their employer, and the employer values (and is seen to value) employees’ contributions. Enhanced employee commitment should in turn feed into improved work performance, reduce staff turnover and make it easier to recruit good employees because the employer has a positive brand and employer image.

Bottom line is this:

When your employees win – your customers win. Which is why it often makes sense to look at them both as the reason for your company’s continued success in equal measure. Which is also why your employee messaging is just as important as your customer facing communication. Wouldn’t you agree?

Give us a call or shoot us an email to find out more on how we did it and to see the projects!  From  social media marketing, to brand stories, green screen videos, online video marketing,, video production services, corporate communication, viral marketing or just simply needing a camera crew in Minneapolis or St. Paul, we do it all!

 

Employees: Loyal & Engaged

Just 20 years ago employee loyalty was an almost forgone conclusion, as many people spent most of their career a one single company, rarely changing jobs. But in today’s world, and especially among younger employees, company loyalty seems to be a lost concept. This sea change leaves many companies struggling to identify ways to hire employees who will be loyal and engaged with the company—and then retain them once have them.

How do you build employee loyalty and engagement?
The truth is that the answer is far more simple than most of us would imagine. Stephen Robbins, the author of Organizational Behavior, suggests that the key to loyal and engaged employees really comes down to YOU. As a leader, you are the face of the company, and therefore your actions, behaviors and interactions with your employees shape their feelings. Employees are most loyal and engaged when they feel that there is mutual respect and when the company’s values (I.E. your values) align with their own.

How do you hire the right employee for the job?
Unfortunately, as companies grow and their hiring process becomes more formulaic, it becomes harder and harder to distinguish the employees who are aligned with your brand from those who just posses the skills to do the job. Part of this results from the recruiting and interviewing process lacking a sense of identity. Taking a lesson from the world of online dating services; it is important that we identify the characteristics of compatibility as it relates to both parties. What makes your corporate culture tick? What do other employees enjoy about working there? This may mean showing potential recruits what a day in the life of an employee is like, so they can see the inside view. Along with telling them about you, you need to identify what their motivations for wanting to work for the company are (outside of the fact that they need a job!) Just like in dating, what you’ll find is that your not-so-well-matched candidates will most likely weed themselves out, and you’ll be interviewing a much better-suited group.

Once you have them, how do you keep them?
The bad news is, employees don’t show up for day one of work as loyal to your brand; it takes time to build that relationship. The good news is, new employees are generally more open, receptive and hungry to hear your message. But it needs to come from you, their leader. Too often companies turn over employee acclamation to someone in HR who lays out a set of rules, expectations and guidelines for their time while working with the company, in rather matter-of-fact terms. However, this fails to give the employee an emotional connection that will foster a relationship built on trust and understanding—and ultimately, loyalty. It’s your job as the leader to take a vested interest in migrating your employee into the category of being a brand loyalist, and this will require you to engage them in new and interesting ways. Loyalty and engagement are not mutually exclusive ideas. In other words, by engaging your employees and holding their attention you are more likely to create a new crop of loyal employees—and loyal employees are more engaged. This is going to take some effort and creative thinking on your part.

Sharing information is a powerful tool to keep your employees engaged. Regular communications from you (their leader) will empower them, and that power leads to engaged employees.

Make your communications a two-way street. This doesn’t mean it has to be an open forum, but allow your employees to participate in shaping and crafting how you communicate with them, and they’ll take ownership in the message.

Foster an atmosphere of fun. This is probably one of the hardest things for many business leaders to do. But as it turns out, contrary to the popular “old-school” belief, a fun working atmosphere is actually a catalyst for productivity. Employees who enjoy their work environment are more likely to be loyal to their company and more engaged in helping it to succeed.

Becoming a Convert
If you’re still not a believer in the importance of employee engagement and loyalty, and your role and responsibility as the leader in shaping it, then take the example of Zappos.com, one of the fast growing online retailers in the world. The company’s core values read as such:

    1. Deliver WOW Through Service
    2. Embrace and Drive Change
    3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
    4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
    5. Pursue Growth and Learning
    6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
    7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
    8. Do More With Less
    9. Be Passionate and Determined
    10. Be Humble

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh is so committed to a loyal and engaged workforce that he puts every employee through a four-week intensive training and cultural emersion training during which he offers new employee cash (up to $2,000, plus the hours they have worked) to quit on the spot! With the realization that by doing so they will never be allowed to work at the company in the future, less than 3% take the deal—and even more rarely do employees leave once they have accepted a position. Why? Because the company and its leader have invested in them to ensure they are loyal and engaged.

Try shifting how you think about employee loyalty and engagement—and get ready to reap the benefits.

Give us a call or shoot us an email to find out more on how we did it!  From video production services, to brand stories, green screen, online video marketing, social media marketing, viral marketing or just simply needing a camera crew in Minneapolis or St. Paul, we do it all!

Failure to Launch!

How many times has this happened to you? You’ve done your research, developed a proper segmentation model, learned your customers’ needs, developed the perfect product to meet those needs, created a viable pricing model, assessed the market landscape, developed a strong marketing campaign, and yet your product launch has fallen flat? You keep asking yourself what went wrong, but there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer.

The truth is you most likely forgot about the most important sale you needed to make—the one to your employees. Employees are the true front line of your business. They have the greatest amount of impact on your brand, your customers and the success of any new venture. Yet most companies fail to either address this issue or don’t do it in an effective way that truly aligns everyone behind a single voice and vision.When this happens, the energy of a launch usually falls flat before it has the chance to get a real head of steam built up behind it.

So what do you need to do to get your employees engaged?  The first task is to identify what their objections will be. Gather a sampling of your employees (and not just the ones who will tell you what you want to hear.) Ask them to share with you what they like or don’t like about the new product—or the olds ones, for that matter. Not only will this define the obstacles and opportunities to touch on when communicating to your employees, but it also holds a broader group of people accountable to the success of the product, since their voice is attached to it.

Treat your employees like a customer. When trying to sell your customers, it’s generally a bad idea to dictate to them. This holds true for your employees. Instead of telling your employees why they should be invested in the success of a product, you should be selling them. In order to do this, you need to create dynamic and compelling ways of reaching them. If the message isn’t delivered in an engaging way, it’s highly unlikely that your employees will be engaged either.

Take a look at things from your employees’ perspective. Identify for your employees a few tactics and approaches for overcoming obstacles that your customers may pose to them. Doing so will go a long way down the road not only in gaining their buy-in, but in helping them close the deal or support a customer once the deal is done.

Help your employees sell. Instead of telling your employees what or how much they should be selling, show them how to sell it. Again, identify tactics and approaches for overcoming obstacles that customers may pose. This will make their jobs easier and will ultimately increase your sales. Capture their attention. Believe it or not, your employees are customers. That’s right— you’re competing for their attention against various sources like Facebook® and YouTube®—even during the workday.

Too often corporate executives try and cram information down the throats of their employees with an “Open Wide” approach. The problem with this is that employees tune it out for more interesting things.

Next time, try wrapping your message into a more engaging format that entertains the employee and draws them in. You may even want to utilize some of these competing mediums as your delivery source:  video production, social media marketing, online video marketing, viral marketing, video communication, and brand stories. The more they enjoy the vehicle, the more they’ll want to see. And the more they see, the more time you’ll have to align the message with them.

Ultimately, the more employees that are on board will lead to a more successful product launch. The key to success for your next product launch lies in how well you’re able to rally your employees around your message. If they’re enthusiastic, knowledgeable and believe in what they’re selling, you’re far more likely to see a positive return on your investment. You’ll need to put in the time and resources required to convert them from spectators to evangelists, but it will be well worth the investment.

Give us a call or shoot us an email to find out more on how we did it and to see the projects!  From video production services, to brand stories, green screen, online video marketing, social media marketing, viral marketing or just simply needing a camera crew in Minneapolis or St. Paul, we do it all!

The Lost Art of Authenticity in Corporate America

Over the years, our work has taught us time and time again that when employees are intellectually and emotionally engaged, they become evangelists for their employer’s brand. They will take the company’s mission to the world at large and preach it like gospel. Can I get a hallelujah?

But it all starts internally with smart, dynamic communication that ensures all employees are carrying the mission forward, are continually aligned with stated goals, and most importantly they must truly be emotionally invested in the livelihood of the company.

So how do we keep our messages fresh and our employees engaged in the media-saturated, multi-task-or-lose 21st century?

Authenticity: Messages must feel authentic
Author Paul Barsch recently pointed out that, “we eagerly seek out, and are willing to pay a premium for, “Authentic” experiences, whether delivered via product, service or engagement.”

While this statement relates directly to customer experience, we maintain that the same rules apply in how we deliver messages to our employees. Authenticity breeds credibility. Credibility breeds trust. And trust, well, trust is the stuff you never want to do business without.

When a message is lacking in authenticity, one simply cannot build the high-trust relationships with employees that a company needs to reach its goals. Crafting truly authentic messages will result in:

    1. Employees becoming emotionally connected to the company’s mission.
    2. Increased consistency in behavior and quality of work due to an increased desire to succeed.
    3. A strong culture of commitment and accountability.

The pursuit of authenticity then, for a corporate message creator means this: Telling meaningful stories with emotional depth, using a human voice.

A Meaningful Back Story
Your company’s back story must inspire employee loyalty and energy. For example, a message about the history of your company should not be a simple timeline with important names and dates. It should be presented as a captivating journey about an underdog’s struggle to succeed, starring the fascinating entrepreneurs who took great risk to build what is your company today!

And we also recommend a theater in which your new film should play: Employee Orientation. Orientation is the beginning of an employee’s journey and is the first opportunity to start to build credibility and connect with new employees on a very human level. Once employees connect with this fascinating story of the great people who built the company they now work for, they will be standing firmly on a foundation of credibility and will want to perpetuate and continue your powerful legacy.

Emotional Depth
Let us not underestimate the power of a well-told story. All truly moving stories have at least one thing in common. They affect us on an emotional level. Everyone has seen the black and white historical film that portrays the founders of a company as two-dimensional characters that started the business X numbers of years ago with X number of employees. While this approach will certainly inform a workforce, it won’t inspire or energize one.

However, when you can tell the story of the birth of your company using proven storytelling techniques that create an emotional connection with the viewers, you will change the way employees look at their employer, transforming them into brand advocates for a company that they can’t help but want to be a part of.

Human Voice
Messages will never feel authentic when delivered in “business speak.” Business jargon has no business in the crafting of authentic messages. Rather, we must convey our messages in a human voice. In Why Business People Speak Like Idiots, Brian Fugere argues that,

“There is a gigantic disconnect between these real, authentic conversations and the artificial voice of business executives and managers at every level. Their messages lack humanity in a world that craves more of it.”

Let’s look at an example of both kinds of voices, using a very familiar call to action and compare them side by side. In Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath use JFK’s space exploration call to action to great illustration.

John F. Kennedy’s 1961 call to “put a man on the moon and return him safely by the end of the decade,” was a simple way, using a human voice to declare a mission and inspire listeners.

In business speak, conversely, that same mission might sound something like “Our mission is to become the international leader in the space industry through maximum team-centered innovation and strategically targeted aerospace initiatives.” Whew. Chew on that for awhile. Quite a mouthful, and completely lacking anything resembling a human voice or human emotion. The difference between two ways of communicating the same mission can be startling.

And so to re-cap, our mission is rather simple:

Cut through the clutter, establish a connection and emotionally engage your employees in an authentic manner using a human voice.  Mediums that we deploy are corporate storytelling, brand stories, video production, humor, viral marketing, and humor.

Because at the end of the day, fully engaged employees are happier employees. And happier employees are more productive employees, which is what we think sounds like the definition of a win, win situation.

Give us a call or shoot us an email to find out more!  From video production services, to brand stories, green screen, online video marketing, social media marketing, viral marketing or just simply needing a camera crew in Minneapolis or St. Paul, we do it all!