Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Tailor

My father was a shoe tailor. I have always preferred to call him that way, because shoemaker did not really give the right impression when it came to describe what he was able to do, to design, to create. Just by putting together leather, glue, cord, beads of sweat and his mastery, he was capable of crafting the perfect shoe.

He had his models, he had his tools, his hands, and his materials. Those things were always the same. But the final results was always different, for two reasons: because the client was different, and because he was different.

Each client had her/his own peculiarities, interests, availabilities, requirements, needs, expectations, tastes, mood, feelings. My father was a real person with a huge heart and a huge pride. With his own peculiarities, interests, availabilities, requirements, needs, expectations, tastes, mood, feelings. How to pretend that this scenario would turn into replicated products?

I have enjoyed observing him while working millions of times. The most interesting ones were when he had to craft two identical pairs of shoes for the same client. Amazing how he would have achieved the same results – the two identical pairs of shoes – by working in completely different ways on the two pairs. Likewise, he was able to create two completely different pairs of shoes by following the same process and using the same tools and materials.

I have learnt from him that there is no one way. If you aim for the good, you can find one solution fitting all, and stick with it. If you aim for the best, it simply does not work. When the best means giving your clients the service or the product which is the closest to what they are really expecting to receive, you have to put yourself into it. And when I say “yourself” I mean your mastery, your sweat, your creativity, your thoughts, your energy. Mind, body, heart and soul.


Have your say on these:

How could an off-the-shelf solution perfectly address your clients’ challenges?

Credibility (established programs with very little configuration) vs adaptability (programs that are highly customized hence with less case history). If you had to choose, what would you?

What is the most important lesson that you have learnt from your father’s work?

What is a common tool that you use you feel you are able to customize at the utmost for your clients?

And let’s finish with a metaphor… If you were a tailor, what would you choose to produce: suits, shoes, ties or shirts? What would your product represent to you?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Rise and fall of Brainstorming (and rise again)

I am definitely an eighties’ boy. And I was barely 15 back in 1987 when I first danced to Duran Duran’s “Skin Trade” tunes and heard about Brainstorming. Not that the two things are related, apart from the facts that both were, let’s use a Brit expression, very fancy back then.

Now, if I had put “Skin Trade” on my player 10 years ago, it would have sounded lovely but surely old fashioned. But if I did it now, it would be just amazing (actually I did it few days ago, and confirm it is amazing!). Opinions and impressions do change over time.

Pretty much the same with Brainstorming, then, although with a different timeline.

Brainstorming. Literally is “a group or individual creativity technique by which efforts are made to find a conclusion for a specific problem by gathering a list of ideas spontaneously contributed by its member(s)” (from Wikipedia). Born in 1953 for marketing and advertising campaigns, Brainstorming has been used for many years across diverse practices, areas, topics. It has been declared effective as many times as it has been criticized as being just another name of “putting ideas together” or “let’s think about it the four of us”. And at a certain point of its history, around mid-2000s, the latter opinions started to overcome the former ones. Why? I have some thoughts around it:

First thought, challenges that can make brainstorming less effective are many and strong, here a few:

·         Blocking: since only one may give an idea at any one time, other participants might forget what they were going to say or not share it because they see it as no longer important or relevant

·         Collaborative fixation: Exchanging ideas in a group may reduce creativity, hence novelty or variety of ideas

·         Evaluation apprehension: fear to be somehow evaluated by the team if the idea is too disruptive or apparently meaningless

·         Free-riding: some members within the group choose not to keep an active participation, actually affecting the team performance negatively

·         Personality characteristics: introverts may give a lower contribute due to their intrinsic personality when brainstorming is done in person

·         Social matching: participants may unconsciously tend to lower their rate of creativity to match others in the group, especially when leaders and followers work together

Second thought, other decision making tools has arisen, especially those tech savvy (I leave this to you IT guys who read, it’s not my business…).

Third thought, real effectiveness could be proven better that it has been so far: what comes out of a typical Italian messy noisy meeting is actually less creative and fruitful than a typical American structured brainstorming session? Just kidding…

Fourth thought, Brainstorming has taken new, different, more intriguing shapes such as (but not limited to):

·         Nominal group technique: Team members write their ideas anonymously, then a facilitator collects the ideas and the group votes on each idea

·         Team idea mapping method: Each participant brainstorms individually, then all the ideas are merged onto a large idea map to be shared among participants and make new ideas emerge by the association, and then to be added to the map as well

·         Question brainstorming: This involves brainstorming the questions, instead of coming up with answers and immediate solutions. The answers are then used as a framework for future action plans

Fifth thought (just listening to some folks here and there), “What the hell is brainstorming? We have been doing that forever every time we had to decide where to go dining!”: Starving – Food – Meat – No please I ate a steak for lunch – Then fish – I know a great place but it’s far – Taxi – Too expensive – Subway – No sandwich! Fish! – Car – Ok, let’s go


It is just few months that Brainstorming has regained its popularity, basically because now teams apply few improvements without bringing out the main lesson of brainstorming: working as a unique brain while bringing own ideas on the table. Just the essence of it.

Now criticism is accepted among team members, since it is proven enhancing creativity and productivity. As well as break-through associations during the flow of ideas, which are traditionally seen by Brainstorming orthodoxy as capable of interrupting the legitimate process. As a matter of fact, unpredictable associations (if I say “blue”, then “green” is predictable, “jazz” is little predictable, “shield” or “NYPD” are highly unpredictable) foster originality and imagination and increase speed of thought and outcomes.

Briefly, brainstorming has passed from a streamlined process to a lateral one. From continuity to dissent. From order to surprise. From rain to storm.

You know what? Actually I have always thought about the word “brainstorming” as something lateral, surprising, dissenting, breaking-through, and storming. Since I was barely 15. That’s why I have been, I am and will always be a sincere Brainstorming fan.


Your friendly brainstormed and Duran Duran lover,




PS by the way, and please apologize me if I tend to repeat myself but, coaching is the best way to ignite brainstorming… ;-)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Coaching culture in organizations

Organizations’ interest around coaching is a movement which is rapidly growing and more companies are now focused on developing such a strong culture after having realized the advantages of that strategy. According to the ICF 2014 research, 43% of organizations report employing internal coaches to work with all employees, and 60% say coaching is available to their high-potential employees. Moreover, an extensive coaching program is often associated with positive business outcomes, including higher employee satisfaction and performance.

Managers and leaders are now requiring to adopt coaching skills to positively have an impact and influence on their employees using those news skills that are able to both improve teams’ performance and engage people effectively.

Although some organizations report hiring internal coaches who have a variety of coaching qualifications and accreditations, there is no single, industry-wide standard or benchmark. Some companies reported that their coaches do not have any formal qualifications or accreditation; certain companies even reported employing coaches with as little as a few hours worth of training. The importance of structured approaches to deliver consistent coaching training to internal managers and leaders will definitely set the difference between those organizations who tell themselves they want to establish a coaching culture, and those who firmly believe in it and do the right steps to implement.

Without necessarily being involved in an ACTP training path to become ICF accredited coaches, leaders and managers can take advantage of working alongside accredited coaches on training and mentoring programs and bring huge benefits to people and organizations through playing thorough coaching skills consistently and successfully.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Concurrent perspectives in corporations

One thing that has always been fascinating to me, not to say fancy, is how to intend standpoints. From every single angle, in each and every topic, under every lens you look, you can give an interpretation of facts based on a different standpoint. I still remember, back in 1978: it was me, my brother, my mother and our friend and neighbor Lina, sitting in a cinema watching the first Star Wars movie. “Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view…”.

A real revelation, to such a point that from that moment on, I have been thinking that there is no absolute truth. Everything is based on own impressions, on ways of interpreting things, on points of view, better still on perspectives.

My convincement has been reinforces throughout all my life, even further by studying Business Administration, Management and Organizational Development.

You can actually give your interpretation of how to lead, manage and organize a company depending on what perspective you are strategically keen to observe.

What would you add to the following list?

Engagement – the life and success of a company largely depends upon the level of engagement of its employees. Most of the time it works, but it is scientifically impossible to determine a direct cause-effect relation between the two, just a strong positive correlation has been reported. And how explain those successful companies where people are intentionally kept strongly disengaged?

Performance – it is all about performance when it comes to discerning what the real essence of corporation success is. Performance means almost everything and can be related to any entity working in a business, from people, to financials, to operations. But isn’t it too much of a broad standpoint? And if we try to narrow it down to one or a few of the multiple fields where “performance” has a connotation, such as just finance, or just people, or just production, or just anything else, doesn’t it easily become too narrow? How many times in business history people performance has not turned into corporate performance?

Leadership – corporations are leaders’ job. Influence, thrive, inspire and succeed. Very linked to both engagement and performance. Oh I forgot, when things go well. Right, because when things doesn’t go well, leadership and leaders are the first to blame. When a football team fails, the coach is the first to be fired. And, actually, what could the first and easy choice other than this be?

Total Reward – give and take, just that. Whatever I give you in terms of development, growth, training, exposure, prestige, joy, fun, and of course money, I expect you revert to me. Raise your hand if you have seen this working in more than 3 corporations in your life…

Organization structure – dear Mr. Mintzberg, you really seduced me when I studied your essays at the University. Everything was so clear, every single aspect in its proper place, all towels in order, tidy desks and easy minds. First day of work, a mess. Henry, now I understand. Your idea is what you tend towards, not what you find in the real corporate world.

Potential – corporate blood shed for potential… what experience do you have to share? Maybe less if you are young, but as an early practitioner I have seen the last companies failing in applying the potential based approach. Beautiful on paper, intriguing in theory, engaging at the beginning of the implementation, it would turn to hell once the best potentials came out as underperforming gurus and self-conceived primadonnas. Sad but true.

Competency-based – same as above, just less tasty and more pragmatic, but with similar results. You may have as many potentials and competences as you want, but if it all does not come up with something productive, it is just useless.

Budgeting – a different perspective that, if played in conjunction with others, is able to give great value and thoroughly improve sustainability, business focus and financial results. As usual, if you think you can completely rely upon a budget, figures may be initially happy but people aren’t really.

Financial outcome – it’s air and water for all businesses. Almost all businesses. In many cultures, striving just for the moneys is impolite, sometimes rude, short-term orientated indeed and very western. Sustainability, progress and social responsibilities lie elsewhere. You tell me whether is good or bad.

Growth and development – the flipside of financial outcome. Beautiful for some eastern marketplaces like Japan, definitely more in line with the idea of a corporation which pays a lot of attention to its employees, their wellness and social life. In some European countries it still represent a fascinating experiment that some companies love to flaunt, sometimes because they truly believe in that, more frequently just to show off or as mean to an end (taking out as much as possible from people making money). Usually those companies are also successful in terms of financial outcomes, way too easy to speak about growth, then!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015: More is the new black

For 2015, just expect more.

More time and relax

More work and money

More enjoyable things to do

More gratitude, praise and appreciation

More love and friendship

More kindness, fairness and respect

More how can I help you

More accept my apologies

More apologies accepted

More good weather

More good music

More smiles

More meditation

More leadership

More justice

More openness and flexibility

More workout

More good food

More tea

More let me try this bend faster

More dos

More kudos

More feelings in your heart

More experiences in your backpack

More fulfillment in your soul

More mindfulness

More I live in the present

More I do care

More from you


What are you going to do to attract this?


Antonella & Federico


PS add you mores if you feel like. Happy new year J

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The lesson of the Blue Star to the Green Bird

Last Sunday I was just watching the Sunday Night Football, the match between the Eagles and the Cowboys played in Philadelphia.
Very briefly: up to less than one month ago Dallas was playing fine in the season but on Thanksgiving the game between the two teams resolved in a bad loss for the Cowboys and in an easy walk on the pitch for the Eagles. The green defense set the difference and the blue and silver offense did not have any chance to express its potential.
Now, many people know that Dallas hardly wins on Decembers, that it is pretty weak on a psychological standpoint, and that Philadelphia this year is very strong, determined and conscious of their means. This would have probably led to another defeat for Dallas. But…

What did happen that turned Dallas into a strong team concentrated on winning the game and on avoiding any single mistake made in the previous game?

Probably just few things:
·         Confidence in its own strengths
·         Keenness to be successful
·         Ability to analyze its previous performance and its opponent’s one
·         Focus throughout the whole match
·         No fear to win
·         Getting the most out of its best players – Romo and his capability of staying in the moment even under a huge pressure from the defense, Murray and his eagerness to be the best ever, Bryant and his hunger as a young man who has strived for his entire life being born and raised in a poor environment

This is what had to be done, this is what the Cowboys did, and the results are in front of everybody. A thorough win, in spite of everything.
How could this simple recipe be useful also for business teams and organizations? How could we shift this to a corporate environment?

What could be the takeaways for you?

What would you think if I said that there is a lot to learn from what has happened between the first minute after the Thanksgiving game and the last minute of last Sunday’s game?

Who are the Romos, Murrays and Bryants in your company? And in your life?

These are very good questions… what are your answers?

My personal takeaway is that if you have a second chance, do whatever possible not to miss it! And work it the hardest possible, without making your competitor understand what a surprise you are cooking.

Sure there is a lot to learn, one thing above all: do not give anything for granted, because people can really go far beyond expectations when properly motivated – and engaged.

You’d like to know my own Romo, Murray and Bryant, wouldn’t you? Sorry, this is very much personal!

Your friendly OD guy,

PS Hope Frank Amoroso and Maria Fiore, my wife’s uncle and aunt, and big fans of the Eagles, won’t take it personally…