Do I Really Need To Improve Team Culture?

by Dietmar on December 15, 2011

Do I really need to improve team culture within my organisation? If you’re asking this question then let’s take a check-up from the neck-up. While this is about Team change – we need to begin with ourselves and part of that is to become easy to work with…and for. 

Someone once told me that when there is a problem, I’m always around – ouch. But, it did get me to look within, rather than pointing the finger to outside circumstances, be that my Team or situations that I perceived to be out of my control.  Your Team is looking to you to lead in action, words and also in behaviour…so we ask the rhetorical question – are you talking the talk?


Through your position of Director or Management not only what you do is important, but how you say it, and how you do it.  Even your most subtle behaviour is noted by your Team. Arriving to work unsmiling and grumpy sets the tone for the day.  I can remember during my early working career, noting with trepidation the tone of my Supervisor, knowing that whatever the mood, that would dictate the day’s work.  We’ve all been there, and sometimes it takes us stepping away from the trees, to get a sense of the forest in front of us.

This can best be described as the Law of Reciprocity, and can basically be summed up by stating the golden rule: do unto others as you would have others do unto you. However it goes one step further than this. The law states that whatever you do will be returned back to you. In other words, if you want to create success for yourself, help someone else become successful.

Your mother may have told you many things that fall under this law when you were a child. For instance, she may have told you that if you wanted friends you needed be friendly. Or, if you are a bully one day you will be bullied back. Your mother actually was telling you about the law of reciprocity without you or her even knowing about it.

The principle is that others will reciprocate in kind based upon the way you treat them. The world gives you what you give to the world. Social psychologists use the term “idiosyncrasy credits” that result from the favourable impressions we make on others. These credits accumulate and you can cash them in for favours or to get others to do things for us.

Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, uses the phrase “emotional bank account” to describe the principle of reciprocity and the corresponding credit-withdrawal process in relationships. Using the metaphor of a financial bank account, the emotional bank account describes the trust that accumulates in a relationship. Like the financial bank account, you must make deposits before you can make withdrawals.

When it comes to success in your life the law of reciprocity will help you gain unparalleled amounts of success. The more you help others gain what they are looking for the more you will be helped. It may not seem like this is the case on the surface but you cannot give without receiving back.

There are eight important points to note regarding The Law of Reciprocity:

1. People expect repayment over time. This is based upon the idea of social exchange. Reciprocity is an implicit assumption in most of our relationships. Giving and receiving favours is a common exchange. When someone does something for you, they implicitly expect that when the circumstance is right, you will do something of approximately equal value for them. For example, if your neighbour helps you put up a fence, your neighbour will expect you to help them when they put up a fence or need other assistance with their home. If you cover for someone at work, you expect that they will cover for you when you need their help.

2. Acts must be mutually rewarding. A successful relationship requires that all parties benefit from the relationship and invest in the relationship. Even when one party might be the primary giver, they still often have the expectation that they will receive in kind—if not from the other party then from the world at another time.

3. Deposits don’t simply accumulate. The value of the deposits can increase or decrease over time. People may forget or ignore small deposits. People may remember big favours and large deposits for longer periods. The value of deposits is what the other person perceives the value to be.

4. You can go in the red. You can wipe out your account with a single withdrawal. If you don’t have a large accumulation of credits, or you make a very large withdrawal, or you make many small withdrawals, you can go in the red.

5. You make deposits or receive credits by making favourable impressions on others—by doing things for them. You make deposits through courtesy, kindness, honesty, respect, and other favours. The favours are often small, but they accumulate over time as your relationship blossoms. The deposits build trust and create a history of what the parties involved in the relationship expect from each other.

6. A history of reciprocity promotes trust. People evaluate your actions and motives based upon their perceptions of your previous actions and motives.

7. Reciprocity is a very powerful form of power. The expectation of giving and returning favours creates an obligation to stick to agreements. This is a very powerful and psychologically binding expectation. Although they may never discuss the expectation openly, it is there and affects negotiations and relationships.

8. Reciprocity can be both positive and negative. If you harm others, they may seek revenge or retribution. People want to make things even in a relationship. They want to do good for those who have treated them well. They want to do harm to those who have harmed them.

By understanding and using the power of reciprocity, you can improve your relationships and avoid mistakes that can permanently damage your relationships. In life and work, you get what you give. To apply the Law of Reciprocity in our situation, we at Think Group suggest that you use the simplest of strategies, and that is to arrive smiling – you can’t complain with a smile on your face and your staff will be less inclined to as well.

Try it out when walking into a shop today.

Walk in and frown and see how people respond to you…

Walk in and smile…and notice the difference!

You do affect your Teams mood and so just by smiling and laughing and being more fun to be around makes for a happier team!

And a Team better able to cope with stress and difficult days.

Even if you have walked past that same staff member 5 times today you need to always acknowledge their presence…and it doesn’t hurt to smile!

The more you smile – the more the Team smiles and the more relaxed and fun your work atmosphere becomes. Watch for the frowning creeping in – and correct it when you are conscious of it and you’ll have Team Culture that your mum will be proud off.


When Charles Schwab became President of Bethlehem Steel in 1903, he made an unusual offer to his consultant, Ivy Lee:

“Show my staff and me a way to get more done in less time and I’ll pay you any fee within reason”.

Bethleham Steel Mill

Without batting an eyelid, Lee offered to give Schwab a tip in a few minutes that would boost his productivity by at least fifty percent.

Here’s the gist of what he said in the twenty minutes before Schwab left to catch a train:

1. Take a card and write down the six most important things you have to do tomorrow. Number them in order of importance.

2. First thing tomorrow, start working on item one until you finish it.

3. Next, do the same with item two, item three and so on, until it’s time to stop for the day.

4. Don’t worry if you only finish one or two items on the list. If you can’t finish them with this system, you’d never have finished them with any other system. This way, you will at least have finished your most important tasks.

Lee invited Schwab to try the system for as long as he liked and pay what he thought it was worth.

Two weeks later, Schwab sent Lee a cheque for $25,000.

At the time, some people said it was foolish of Schwab to pay so much for a simple idea, and so little consulting time.

But Schwab later credited Lee’s advice with helping him transform Bethlehem Steel, from a virtual unknown into the largest independent steel producer in the world, in less than five years.

In the process, Schwab earned a personal fortune of $100 million.

(Source: The Millionaire in You by Michael LeBoeuf)

What do you make of that?

·        Do you think Schwab paid over the odds for a simple tip?

·        How do you measure the value of advice?

·        What difference would it make to your work if you started using Lee’s $100 Million Productivity Tip?


There is no substitute for good design, just take a look at what chief designer, Jonathan “Jony” Ive has done at Apple.

Ive, is a British designer and the Senior Vice President of Industrial Design at Apple. It has been Ive’s design brillance that has returned Apple from the brink of financial ruin with the playful design of the iMac, whose original designs in bright colours came at a time when the world was dominated PCs by the soft tones.


Jony Ive With One Of His Design Babies

Later, he helped transform Apple into a hub for consumer electronics and the envy of Silicon Valley with the iPod, iPhone and more recently the iPhone.Then why is it that we are forever bombarded with deadpan PowerPoint presentations that the presenter just rereads whatever is on the slide. If you ask me they’d be better off to give me the printed of slide show and save me the extra caffeine shot to get through another death by PowerPoint.

As a side note, PowerPoint was originally designed for the Macintosh computer, the initial version being called ‘Presenter’. In 1987, it was renamed to “PowerPoint” due to problems with trademarks, the idea for the name coming from Robert Gaskins.[2] In August of the same year, Forethought was bought by Microsoft for $14 million USD ($27.1 million in present-day terms[3]), and became Microsoft’s Graphics Business Unit, which continued to develop the software further.

Not wanting to put people through this process I looked around for a mentor who understood design and the impact that visual stimulus can give – and that road lead to Cliff Atkinson over at Beyond Bullet Points which is the name of his best-seller book, and was named a Best Book of the Year by Its influence has been global, with translations in Finnish, French, Greek, Italian, Korean, Russian, Swedish, Turkish, Chinese, Czech and Hungarian.

The Beyond Bullet Points techniques made headlines when attorney Mark Lanier hired Cliff to help him use them to win a $253 million dollar lawsuit. This unprecedented legal victory  triggered articles in the New York Times, Fortune, the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times.

This lead me into this slideshare by Dr Alex Osterwalder, who proposed The Business Model Canvas based on his earlier PHD work on Business Model Ontology. As Alex is so apt in doing, he presents his ideas about creating powerful and effective PowerPoint Presentations, but be forewarned there are some images that are designed to shock you. We wouldn’t want you falling asleep now!

Now that you’ve been given an example of what can be made of PowerPoint, let me know of the changes you’ve made and what I’d be really interested in, is the feedback given.


Mark McGuinness of Lateral Action fame writes a very interesting article on what he calls ‘The Most Painful Memory Technique in the World’. Mark shares his findings on the history of the famous Japanese ‘Ninja’, when he visited the Iga-ryu Ninja Museum in Japan.


Kneeling Ninja

Of interest to Mark and myself was the memory system that the ninja’s used in their preparation for combat.


Caption from Iga-ryu Ninja Museum

Like mind mapping our brain works by the use of association, as Mark explains, “The mind works by association, so if you want to be confident of retrieving new information, the most reliable way is to attach it to something that you will definitely recall – and it’s hard to forget a part of your own body, or the pain of a wound!”

Tony Buzan technique to hanging a coat on a hook, You will always know where to find your coat (new information) if you hang it on an immovable hook (something you can remember easily).

Some great takeaways that Mark provides that we here at Think Group use are;

· What would you most like to be able to remember?

· What memory tricks do you use to remember important items?

· Have you ever used a formal memory system?


Mind Mapping

by Dietmar on May 31, 2011

Mind Mapping is turning the corner from the realm of cool to mainstream, which is great news for creative and logical thinkers aside. Leading the way in all things mind mapping, and also the reason I use them here at Think Group, is Tony Buzan. Tony Buzan is the father of modern mind mapping. Here is a video where he describes mind mapping, watch out how he describes the “radiant thinking” process and how mind mapping taps into this powerful memory process.

Initially, mind maps were simply a brainstorming, outlining, or note-taking tool. Now, they are showing up in thought processing, visual thinking, project management, process planning and presentations.


The current generation of mind mapping tools are considerably more powerful, yet easier-to-use, than their predecessors. For the past three years Think Group have used Mindjet MindManager Pro, but with Tony Buzan’s company recently releasing iMindMap 5 I’m tempted to trial it out as I like the less corporate feel of how it draws it lines. Check out their promo video describing its features and benefits.

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The Principle of Construal Level Theory

The Principle of Construal Level Theory

Dan Pink brought this to my attention in a recent blog post headlined “3 tricks for solving problems faster and better”. Dan leads with the thought that it’s easier to come up with an idea for someone else, than it is for ourselves to solve a problem.

This has come out from recent research by Evan Polman of NYU and Kyle J. Emich of Cornell where in three sets of experiments they found that when subjects solved problems on behalf of others, they produced faster and more creative solutions than if they did so solving the very same problem.Polman and Emich say the principle at work is something called “construal-level theory,” which in simple terms means that we think in more abstract terms about distant problems (or problems belonging to distant people) — and thinking at a more abstract level produces more creative solutions.

Dan goes on to suggest that given we’re often more creative solving someone else’s problems what strategies can we do to more effectively solve our own? Here Dan suggests three ideas:

1. Trade problems with someone. When you get stuck, stop hammering away at the problem and find a colleague to swap with.

2. Solve problems on behalf of someone else. Create some psychological distance from your project by pretending that you’re doing it on behalf of someone else. Use your imagination here: the “other person” could be the woman across the hall, a relative, or a stranger halfway across the world. The farther away, the better.

3. Put some distance between yourself and your project. Writers know something magical happens when you put your manuscript away in a drawer. When you come back to it a week or a month or six months later, you have a fresher, more creative perspective on the work. When you can, build some slack into your deadlines and try putting your work out of sight for as long as you can manage.

Dan Pink brought this to my attention in a recent blog post headlined “3 tricks for solving problems faster and better”. Dan leads with the thought that it’s easier to come up with an idea for someone else, than it is for ourselves to solve a problem.


Very dear friends Kevin and Denise Dawkins are doing their bit for the crew here in Christchurch. Kevin runs the successful 3 Years Out consultancy practice and I consider him a real thought leader. Kevin and Denise are raising $1820 in a win:win deal and in the process they’ll reward you for your generosity.

Christchurch Cathedral

Christchurch Cathedral after the quake. Photo: Logan McMillan

Let Denise explain;

Everyone is trying to do their bit to support our friends in Christchurch and we are too.

We’ve been encouraging all of our clients and business connections to get creative with how they can contribute and make a difference.   And here is one neat example.

Two of our good friends and business colleagues, Noel Davies & William de Ora (who not only happen to be two of the smartest entrepreneurs we know, but are also business authors) responded immediately.  Noel and William both shipped me 26 copies of one of their business book titles for us to sell on to our clients and friends, and to donate the proceeds to the rebuilding of Christchurch.

Here’s where you can help.

We have 26 copies of William’s highly acclaimed book “The Invisible Partnership” plus 26 copies of Noel’s book, “The Guide to Successful Business Partnerships”, co-authored by Ian Brooks.  Both books have a rrp of $35.

Here’s the deal.  If you are willing to buy both books – one copy of “The Invisible Partnership”, plus one copy of “The Guide to Successful Business Partnerships” – we’ll donate 100% of the proceeds to the Salvation Army Christchurch Earthquake Appeal.  The books have a combined rrp of $70 – but you only need to pay $50.

You won’t need to think about it too long because this is a win/win.  You send us a $50 to support our friends in Christchurch, we’ll donate 100% of the proceeds to Salvation Army – and you get 2 great business books (worth $70 plus we’ll ship them free anywhere in NZ).

We’ve read both these books – and they both deserve to be in your library.

We know that we are all donating what we can to a number of charities and causes.  Thanks to William and Noel’s generosity – this time we’ll send you something extra as a ‘thank you’ for your support.

Just email Denise ( saying “count me in” in the Subject line – and she’ll be in contact to arrange payment and shipping.

Thanks again for doing your bit!

You can also forward the link to our website Christchurch Earthquake Appeal

With gratitude,

Kevin & Denise


How Facilitating Innovation is a Game Changer

by Dietmar on December 24, 2010

This week has our own Air New Zealand showcase how they’re changing their Value Proposition (Your business Value Proposition is one part of the Business Canvas that Think Group uses as a framework to develop game changing Business Models). Air New Zealand showcased their new Boing 777-300 ER which they’re heralding as introducing at least five game changing developments. Up to now the airline industry had delivered three major innovations in the past 30 years, lie flat business class, premium economy, and seatback inflight entertainment.

Air New Zealand Premium Econony Class

Air New Zealand’s game changing innovative products include the lie flat economy seats, to unique interior finishes such as wallpaper in the bathrooms. Such creative designs pushed even Boing, who were nervous as this was the most radical interior fitout the aerospace company had done.

To come up with the next game changing Value Proposition what is your organisation doing to facilitate potential innovators?  According to new Wharton research they challenge the widely held belief that innovation is driven by group brainstorming session, rather it is time alone.

In a recent paper titled, “Idea Generation and the Quality of the Best Idea (PDF),” Wharton operations and information management professors Christian Terwiesch and Karl Ulrich argue that group dynamics are the enemy of businesses trying to develop one-of-a-kind new products, unique ways to save money or distinctive marketing strategies.

They make an interesting discovery that questions one of the predispositions of group dynamics that they believe creates a roadblock to innovation — build-up, which is the tendency of people to suggest ideas similar to one that has already been proposed, and embraced by, the unit.

They found that ideas built around other ideas are not statistically better than any random suggestion.  Build-up, Terwiesch believes, “is a social norm showing that you listened. If a group is working together on an idea that’s already on the table, you’re wary of coming in with your own agenda because you might be seen as selfish and not a team player. So you build on the idea that is currently on the table.”

“Instead of searching the world broadly, we are all kind of searching only in this little sphere,” Terwiesch says. “In innovation, variance is your friend. You want wacky stuff because you can afford to reject it if you don’t like it. If you build on group norms, the group kills variance.”

major innovations in the past 30 years, lie flat business class, premium economy, and seatback inflight entertainment.


Do You Have Meeting Rhythm?

by Dietmar on December 18, 2010

In a recent client engagement we implemented a meeting rhythm. The reason for this and it may surprise you (then again it may not), but in most organisations there are not enough good meetings. You might be saying there is no time for any more meetings, but when properly executed, good meetings will save you time and will make you more money!

The meeting rhythm comes from the work of Verne Harnish, the “Growth Guy” and his work with Gazelles. Focusing on how to develop good meeting rhythm in your organisation will save you time and money. When you conduct a series of meetings that build upon each other, they allow management to see patterns that will help them to make better and faster decisions. In addition, by communicating in focused, structured, and organised fashion, you cut a lot of the inefficiency out of the organisation.

Meeting Rhythm

This is the meeting rhythm that we suggested to our client organisation and their purposes should be as follows:

  • Annual Meeting – Discuss progress on last year’s goals, and set and get alignment among your management team around the goals you plan to achieve for the next year.
  • Quarterly Meetings – You measure progress toward your year-end goals and discuss what you need to do in the next 13-week race to stay on track.
  • Monthly Meetings – Focus on monthly learning. These are opportunities for the management team to start developing the next levels in the organization. This should be a two- to four-hour meeting for the extended management team to review progress with everyone, discuss financial results, and to make appropriate adjustments. It is also a great time to do an hour or two of specific training.
  • Weekly Meetings – These are issue-oriented meetings and strategic gatherings. At these meetings you discuss progress toward the top 5 critical initiatives in the organization (you have identified these right?), look at leading key performance indicators, customer and employee feedback, and spend 30 minutes on one single big issue. A big mistake made at weekly meetings is covering everything every week. As a result, weekly meetings tend to be too shallow. It is recommended that the management team pick a focus for the month or quarter to be the priority for your weekly meetings. By moving that one large priority for the month or quarter, you make a big impact on driving your business forward.
  • Daily Huddles – These are 5-15 minute stand-up meetings for everyone in the company, but not necessarily everyone in the same meeting. The purpose of these huddles is to help make sure that everyone is focused on the right activities, identify where people are stuck, create peer pressure to achieve key deliverables, and create daily contact among all team members. Companies that do huddles have found that it has made their days much more efficient and weekly and monthly meetings much more productive.
  • Specific Purpose Meetings – These meetings only include those people necessary to get something done, remove a bottleneck, and/or are designed to make a decision.

Here at Think Group we focus on what makes your business and organisation grow, is it time for you to implement a meeting rhythm?


What a year it has been for the growth of social media. Facebook hit one out of the park with its weekly site traffic overtaking search engine giant Google.  David Armano was bang on the money in his outlook for last year where he predicted that mobile would become a lifeline to people looking to get their social media fix. I know myself that I have contributed to the tripling of social media being access through mobile devices.

In his recent HBR blog Armano spells out his take on the Six Social Media Trends for 2011.  Of most interest to business is his claim that it’s the integration economy.

As part of the Business Model Canvas social media plays an important role in tying your companies value proposition across to its customer segments.  Cutting edge companies will understand that the challenge will be how to integrate social media across all facets of business from marketing to crisis management and beyond.

Social Media Landscape

Where do you see social media going in 2011? And how are you as an individual and company prepared?