What do these three popular figures have in common? All three are introverts – quiet leaders who have had a tremendous impact on the world.
A quiet leader sounds like an oxymoron. However, Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts, would argue that quiet leaders have always existed – and often are more effective than extroverted leaders.
Introverted leaders tend to be more reflective and considered. “Ghandi said his shyness stopped him from saying something stupid.” They listen more and lead by consensus. In work places where employees are more proactive, quiet leaders are often more successful in empowering people to take initiative and make ideas happen. This is especially important as more companies try to foster entrepreneurialism.
Cain’s work on quiet leadership has many takeaways whether you fall into the introvert, extrovert or ambivert camp. Two that stood out to me:
Rethink brainstorms. The loudest person in the room doesn’t always have the best ideas. Enable people to brainstorm in solitude first, then come together to share their ideas as a group.
Redesign your workspace. We’re encouraged to work in open floor plans, but the best thinking often happens alone. Design a flexible workspace that allow for periods of quiet contemplation.
This isn’t to say that there isn’t a place for extroverted leaders, but that we should recognise leadership takes many different forms.
Melissa Andrada is an ambivert and strategist passionate about creating businesses that inspire people, do good and make money.
You’re an entrepreneur. You’ve identified a gap in the market and come up with a product with huge potential for growth. The problem? You’re not the only one.
If everyone is trying to solve the same problem, then what’s going to make you stand out and be different? This is a tricky question for startups to answer, as you do not have the same history and heritage to draw from as the Nikes, GEs and Microsofts of the world. It’s a future-facing question that requires you to think about the principles that make your business special and unique.
Your principles should come out of your purpose – your reason for being. They should be equally inspiring and strategic. They should get you up in the morning, but also act as a guiding compass that drives decision-making. They should define your product experience, company culture, and communications.
Skillshare is a great example of a startup that has created set of principles that clearly define what makes them different. There are many wonderful startups that are trying to re-think education, from the Khan Academy to Coursera to the School of Life. What makes Skillshare different from its competitors is its commitment to principles that include “everyone is a teacher”, “teaching isn’t what you think it is”, and “learning by doing.”
Startups in other industries could learn from Skillshare’s example. I recently was on vacation in San Francisco where rideshare services are all the rage. Lyft. Uber. Hailo. Without googling them, I’m unclear on the differences between these businesses. I know that one has a pink moustache on its cars, but that’s the extent of my knowledge.
The issue of differentiation goes beyond transportation; it can also be applied to startups in crowdfunding (Indiegogo v. Kickstarter), ecommerce (Gilt v. Myhabit v. Rue La La), travel (Kayak v. Hipmunk). The list goes on.
You might be first to market, but defining what makes you special becomes especially important as your industry becomes more complex and competitive.
Where failure is the rule, not the exception, it’s important to start thinking about this question now rather than later.
Melissa Andrada is a strategist passionate about creating businesses that inspire people, do good, and make money. In her spare time, she teaches classes on branding for startups at General Assembly. @themelissard
What do you want to be doing when you turn 65? Live in South Florida? Move to a retirement village? Stay at your job?
For many people – including myself, retirement is a dated concept. We no longer follow the traditional path of graduate from uni, work at the same job for 40+ years, retire.
Getting and being old is a stigma. But it doesn’t have to be.
The Amazings is an education organisation that’s flipping the stigma on its head.
We recently had the privilege of having Adil Abrar, one of their co-founders, talk about the future of retirement and why we should treat old people better.
The Amazings believe that the over-50s are The Amazings. They empower them to teach and pass on their skills and knowledge with the community. The Amazings teach everything from gardening to public speaking to buying your first home.
Do you need to be physically located across several continents – like so many of the big corporations, banks and professional services firms?
Or is it enough to travel regularly all over the world, working with foreign organizations and getting to know their homeland?
Or could you argue that a dedication to diversity among the workforce is what counts, mixing up international perspectives even if you all sit in one place?
Here at Wolff Olins we’re a combination of all three: having hubs in the UK, USA and UAE, a client-base that is around 90% based outside our city locations, and a workforce comprised of well over 15 nationalities. But maintaining a global perspective is not a static purpose. We have to keep finding ways to experience different ways of life and work abroad, and bring those insights back into the business. With that in mind, this year the business committed to opening up more opportunities for us to spend time working overseas in one of our offices – London, New York, San Francisco or Dubai.
And so it is that, this summer, Melissa Andrada (a strategist from New York) and I (a strategist from London) swapped seats: me setting up residence in New York, her settling into life in London. It’s been a deep dip cultural experience for both of us. New country, new neighborhood, new friends, new home. On a purely gastronomic level, I’ve increased my bagel intake by 100% and Melissa has no doubt done lasting damage to her liver (cliches exist for a reason). 5 months in, we’re now ready to reflect on the similarities and differences between the two offices.
Many things are common to the Wolff Olins (WO) experience on either side of the Atlantic: the abundance of curious, opinion-forming people to be inspired by and enjoy working alongside; the emphasis on taking the initiative – WO is your platform, don’t wait to be asked; the enthusiasm for new ideas and for stretching our clients and ourselves to make bigger, better impact on the world.
We’ve also observed some differences. Here’s a snapshot of our insights so far - three key things we feel WONY and WOLO can learn from the other. (WONY is shorthand for Wolff Olins New York and WOLO for Wolff Olins London. Even brand agencies have their acronyms.)
THREE THINGS WOLO CAN LEARN FROM WONY
Wolff Olins New York
Look out and learn together
Every Thursday at 5pm there’s a WONY office-wide share from an external person/ company/ group. It’s a chance for everyone to sit together, eat, drink and learn something new. The scheduled nature of it makes it easy to slot into your week, and getting that regular dose of outside perspective is really refreshing.
New brains are better than one
The WONY office has a structured approach to interns – inviting a number of young, talented people to work alongside us every Summer and Fall. Getting their insights into culture as it’s emerging (simply watching ‘Girls’ does not qualify you as culturally on the pulse…sadly) and their enthusiasm into projects is a real asset to the work we produce; and the program provides a valuable chance for those assigned as their mentors to develop management and coaching skills.
Work the room
The WONY office is set up to function as a design studio - with big white blank canvases all around you, a newly set up ‘crit area’ where ongoing work is out for all to see, and an open layout that mixes skill sets successfully. It encourages you to get up and walk around, to use the tables in-between desk ‘pods’ to hold informal meetings, and to generally be more fluid about how you work.
THREE THINGS WONY CAN LEARN FROM WOLO:
Wolff Olins London
The Friday Pub can be just as important as the Office
Every Friday, at least 10 or so WOLO-ers venture off to the local pub for a round – or two – of pints and wine. It’s a lovely tradition that gives people the chance to bond and catch up with each other outside of the office. Many a conversation at the Thornhill have led to an important insight – an inspired collaboration.
Get the most out of your neighbors
With Robert Jones and Brian Boylan as your officemates, why wouldn’t you tap your neighbors for a bit of outside perspective on a pitch or a project? WOLO has the benefit of having “specialists” — Bethany Koby for social impact, Nathan Williams for tech, Karl Sadler for interaction design, and many more. At WOLO, there is a greater informal economy of thinkers offering offline insights and advice.
Start something up
From the Honey Club to Because talks to WO Entrepreneur, WOLO has a wealth of projects kickstarted and run by folks internally. It’s a great way to work with new people, stretch skills, test drive new ideas, start businesses and make an impact in the world – outside of client work. Internal projects allow everyone to be the CEO of something.
Amy Lee is a Senior Strategist at Wolff Olins New York, and Melissa Andrada is a Strategist at Wolff Olins London
We recently put together a quick Survey Monkey on what startups need, which we shared with founders and entrepreneurs in our network at Wolff Olins. We’ve been sharing our analysis of the results in a couple of posts on the Wolff Olins blog (see our previous postsWhat’s the single biggest challenge facing your startup?andWho do you go to for advice?). This is our third and final post in this series, and it’s focused on how startups envision their future.
“Acquired” was the top response to our survey on what startups need.
“Leading” or “No. 1” came in second, with “Sustainable” coming in third.
Whether your business ambition is acquisition, market leadership, or sustainable growth, you need a strong purpose to get you where you need to go. A strong purpose can help tell a more powerful exit story to investors. A strong purpose can help identify gaps in the market and the most important consumer needs. A strong purpose can help create a roadmap for sustainable growth.
Every month take some time to sit with your co-founders and/or teammates to ask yourself, the big questions, “Why do we exist? What role do we want to play in people’s lives?”
By answering these questions, you’ll be able to build a brand that will not only help you reach your business goals, but also, increase your impact on the world.
Interested in getting some outside perspective? On November 26, I’ll be teaching a class with WOLO lead strategist Jemma Elliot on how to develop a strong brand purpose and bring it to life across your business at General Assembly London.
Not surprisingly, startups trust their peers more than anyone else. Just over 82% of respondents said they go to other startups and entrepreneurs for advice. Social media came in at second best, with 62% recipients using Blogs, Twitter and Tumblr, etc. for advice.
Some of my favourite resources for startups are General Assembly and Skillshare (full disclosure – I’ve taught at both), two alternative education companies that offer classes for entrepreneurs and those aspiring to be ones. I’m also a big fan of Y Combinator’s Paul Graham’s archive of essays. Union Square Ventures VC Fred Wilson’s also has a great series called MBA Mondays that covers business school basics, such as Profit and Loss Statements and Balance Sheets.
Stay tuned for more results and tips on what startups need.
We recently put together a quick Survey Monkey on what startups need, which we shared with founders and entrepreneurs in our network at Wolff Olins.
We’ll be sharing our analysis of the results in a couple of posts on the Wolff Olins blog.
The biggest challenges are creating an all-star team (29%) and making money (32%). You need the first to get to the second.
Finding the right people is a challenge. You might find people with the right skillset but not quite the right cultural fit. One tool we find especially useful for recruitment and retainment is having a manifesto that communicates your vision and key behaviours.
Your manifesto should serve as your rallying cry – it should be a document that inspires people to get on board and work until the wee hours of the night. It should serve as a decision-making filter for whom you hire and what kind of culture you create.
Making money is often the white elephant room. Everyone knows it’s important, but no one knows the answer. The assumption is: start by building a huge user base, then money will follow. It’s what Facebook and Twitter did.
At Wolff Olins, we believe you need to think about both from the start. To think through this challenge, we use a range of creative tools like the business model canvas to explore the potential business models and revenue streams.
Stay tuned for more results and tips on what startups need.
I was planning a trip home to NYC and the first question I asked my sister is: “Where should we eat?”
Ten years ago, my first question would have been: “Are there any good shows happening?” Like many Seattlites who grew up in the ‘90s and early ‘00s, I spent my youth seeing Death Cab at local venues before they got big, scouring indie record stores for hidden gems, and creating mixed tapes for my friends
Fast forward to 2012. The closest thing I have to a mixed tape is my Spotify playlist.
Thanks to technology, music is more personalised, democratic and accessible than ever. It began with the iPod, which revolutionised the way people listened to music. We went from buying CDs and listening to whole albums to downloading MP3s and listening to individual songs. The “Top 25 Most Played” song list became one of the most telling and intimate parts of our cultural identity.
More recently, we’re shifting from downloading to streaming. Through Spotify, I have millions of artists and songs just click away. Through Pandora, I can go on autopilot at work and listen to Phoenix and bands that sound like them. I couldn’t live without Spotify and/or Pandora, but they take away the magic of discovering a new band or musician. Sure, concerts and shows bring back some of the magic, but it’s just not the same.
Hipsters and non-hipsters alike now ask: “Have you tried this new restaurant?” Chefs are the new rock stars. People follow David Chang in NYC, Heston Blumenthal in London, or Tom Douglas in Seattle as if they were the lead singer of the band.
Unlike music, technology has not yet erased the magic of discovering a new restaurant or chef. While Yelp and Zagat have made it more challenging to keep favourite spots hidden, going to a restaurant or eating your way through a food market is such a visceral, multi-sensory part of culture that it has to be experienced in person.
Melissa Andrada is a strategist at Wolff Olins London. She’s passionate about the intersection between technology, social good and brand. Lee Fields is currently at the top of her Spotify starred list. @themelissard
Re-thinking the boring, traditional lecture model, Lost Lectures takes attendees into secret locations “designed to surprise, delight and bring the imagination to life.” To give you a taste, this month’s theme is “Lost at Sea,” featuring a National Geographic adventurer, a time traveller and an improv comedy duo.
Felix Barrett, Creative Director of Sleep No More, will be taking immersive theatre to the next level. He’s setting up a travel agency that takes a city as its backdrop so your life becomes a show. According to Barrett, “There’s nothing better than giving something to an audience that has no idea what they’re walking into.”
Dans Le Noir is a chain of restaurants across scattered across Europe and NYC where customers eat and drink in complete darkness. Dans Le Noir has been around for several years, but continues to surprise and challenge guests’ sense of taste and smell.
When was the last time you were surprised?
Melissa Andrada is a strategist at Wolff Olins London. She’s passionate about the intersection between technology, social good and brand. A recent London transplant, she spends her spare time exploring the city for fun, unexpected experiences. @themelissard