Freedom: A bird in search of a cage

A bird stretches out from a cage in search of food in a Lagos fowl market 06 February 2007. Tests on samples from two people feared to have died of bird flu in Nigeria have so far proved negative, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has found, according to a senior Nigerian health official 05 February 2007.  AFP PHOTO/Pius UTOMI EKPEI

So much freedom, so much choice, so many opportunities to matter.

And yet, our cultural instinct is to find a place to hold us, a spot where we are safe from the responsibility/obligation/opportunity to choose. Because if we choose, then we are responsible, aren’t we?

The cage keeps us in, certainly, but it also keeps everything else out. It protects us from a world that we have decided offers challenges, not opportunities.

Franz Kafka wrote about the cage in search of a bird, a trap that was incomplete until it found something to trap. But the reverse is more true, and sadder still. We are often birds that are unhappy until we find a cage that takes away our freedom.

We were born free to fly, to create, to innovate and grow but instead we want a cage, a job, a factory with a boss to tie us down.

The industrial revolution has created a world of people who are looking to be caged for the security of a guaranteed salary.

The poem: A Bird In A Cage by Srishti Chaplot captures this message:

There it lies…..a bird in a cage
Sitting silently…looking outside
Sees seasons change
People come and go
Enjoys its own life..maybe not enjoying
Its just existing
Once a dream filled it with limitless faith
Then full of energy and enthusiasm
It pursued it with full might
Flew energetically here and there
Forgetting the bars…that its in a cage
And the bars torn its wings apart just in time
Shattering its faith, its hope and its dreams
And the bird lied in the cage..badly injured
Then thought as to why it ever gained the faith to fly?
When all it had to gain was its defeat…death…
People passing by saw…but none helped it recover
And the bird cursed the cage for being there
And all it did now was to dream
When it will fly in that vast stretching sky
Flying..which is the very innate nature of a bird
Soon time passed and passed and passed
And dreams passed into nothingness
And the faith to fly forgotten!

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Movements Do: The Revolution will be Tweeted

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Tweets were sent. Dictators were toppled. One of the key success factors for any movement is communication. The Arab spring is one example where social media was used effectively.

It only takes two things to turn a group of people into a movement:
– A shared interest
– A way to communicate

The communication can be:
– Leader to movement
– Movement to leader
– Movement member to movement member
– Movement member to outsider

So a leader can help increase the effectiveness of the movement and its members by:
– transforming the shared interest into a passionate goal and desire for change
– providing tools to allow members to tighten their communications
– leveraging the movement to allow it to grow and gain new members

The move from the industrial era to the connection startup revolution means that:

Movements are more important than ever. It’s the factory mentality we don’t need.

Movements give us the ability to create complex products. They provide the muscle and consistency necessary to get things to market and to back them up. Most important, movements have the scale to care for large movements.

Movements of the future are filled with smart, fast, flexible people on a mission.

Thing is, that requires leadership.

When the CEO abuses the attention, she is taking something from the movement. When a CEO starts acting like a selfish monarch, she’s no longer leading. She’s taking.

The revolution will not be televised, it will be tweeted.

Movements Do: Movements with Leaders

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Leaders have followers. Managers have employees. Movements need a leader(s), leaders keep the momentum going. A leaderless movement often results in conflicts going un-resolved. It is very easy for a leaderless movement to be hijacked by irrelevant agendas of members.

Here’s what’s changed: Some people admire the new and stylish far more than they respect the proven state of affairs. More often than not, these fad and fashion-focused early adopters are the people who buy and the people who talk. As a result, new ways of doing things, new jobs, new opportunities, and new faces become ever more important.

Marketing, the verb, changed the market.

The market is now a lot less impressed with average stuff for average people, and the market is a lot less impressed with loud and flashy and expensive advertising. Today, the market wants change.

Leaders don’t care very much for organizational structure or the official blessing of whatever factory they work for. They use passion and ideas to lead people, as opposed to using threats and bureaucracy to manage them.

There is a difference between telling people what to do, and inciting a movement.

The movement happens when people talk to one another, when ideas spread within the community, and most of all, when peer support leads people to do what they always knew was the right thing.

Great leaders create movements by empowering the members to communicate. They establish the foundation for people to make connections, as opposed to commanding people to follow them.

It’s easy to hestiate when confronted with the feeling that maybe you are getting too much attention.

Great leaders are able to reflect the light onto their teams, their movements. Great leaders don’t want the attention, but they use it to unite the movement and to reinforce its sense of purpose.

Movements Do: …. and Movements Connect

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A movement is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.

A movement needs only two things to be a movement: a shared interest and a way to communicate.

Movements need leadership. People want connection and growth and something new. They want change.

Humans cannot help it: we need to belong.

One of the most powerful of our survival mechanisms is to be part of a movement, of a tribe, to contribute to (and take from) a group of like-minded people. We are drawn to leaders and to their ideas, and we cannot resist the rush of belonging and the thrill of the new.

Some movements are stuck. They embrace the status quo and drown out any movement member who dares to question authority and the accepted order. Big charities, tiny clubs, struggling corporations – they are movements and they are stuck. I’m not focusing on those movements. Every one of those tribes, though, is a movement waiting to happen – a group of people just waiting to be energized and transformed.

A movement is thrilling. It’s the work of many people, all connected, all seeking something better.

We choose not to be remarkable because we are worried about criticism. We are worried, deep down, that someone will hate it and criticise us on it. Its easy to bow down to criticism when you are alone. Its not so easy to give up when you are in movement of shared interest and vision.

Movements grow when people recruit other people. That’s how ideas spread as well. The movement does not do it for you, of course. They do it for each other.

Its movements that ended slavery and apartheid and it will be movements that will save the environment, end inequality and poverty, end corruption.

You want to be an entrepreneur? Join a movement of entrepreneurs.

Its movement that will keep your passion ignited. There is something about being in a group of like-minded people.

If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk with others. – African proverb

Movements Do: ….No Excuses

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What separates movements from everybody else is that movements do. They don’t make excuses.

South Africa’s liberation movements, Occupy Wall Streets, movements that marched to Tahir Square in Egypt, #RhodesMustFall and now #FeesMustFall are some examples of movements that matters.

We grew up in movements, be it community movement, family movement, work movement, even churches are movements.

We are living through a change in how ideas are created, spread and implemented. In the past, you got an idea, built a factory and produced it on a very large scale. Then you got an idea and put it on television so you could spread it to millions.

Today we spread ideas by leading.

The #FeesMustFall movement didn’t need a huge marketing budget to market itself before people joined it. In the connection economy all it takes is someone (or a group) to start, to take the initiative and lead.

If the message resonates with a lot of people, they will connect and join and the movement grows.

You don’t need everyone to adopt the idea, you just need a thousand people who are true believers.

movement has an emotional heart. A movement might use an organisation, but it can replace systems and people if they disappear.

Movements are more likely to cause widespread change, and they require leaders, not managers. The internet, it turns out, is a movement, and every time someone tries to own it, they fail.

Three questions to answer if you are starting a movement:

  • Who are you upsetting? If you are not upsetting anyone, you are not changing the status
  • Who are you connecting? And
  • Who are you leading?

To build movements effectively, understand how to leverage culture (the culture of a group), their curiosity, the power of connecting (people want to be missed when they are not around), charisma (which comes from being a leader, it’s not a precursor) and commitment.

Just before you finish reading and dashing off, I would like to ask you for a favour. It won’t take a lot of you:

I would like you start a movement, a movement that matters, just go out there and do it, we need it.

Go ahead and create a movement for the elites. Not the elites of class or wealth, but the elites of curiosity, passion and taste. Every great thing ever created and achieved was created by and for this group.

What’s Your Story?: The Art of Storytelling

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Everyone has a story, every business has a story and every product or service has a story. Knowing your story is one thing, tell your story is another. Telling a great story is even more a important.

The following are some of the ingredients of telling a great story:

  • Great stories succeed because they are able to capture the imagination of large or important audiences. The Mandela’s story of forgiveness has been able to capture the imagination of the world.
  • A great story is true. Not necessarily because it’s factual, but because it’s consistent and authentic. Consumers are too good at sniffing out inconsistencies for an entrepreneur to get away with a story that’s just slapped on. If you say your product is consistent and reliable and you tell how it has saved a lot of people’s lives, it better true and consistent story.
  • Great stories make a promise. They promise fun, safety or a shortcut. The promise needs to be bold and audacious. Defending mediocrity is tiring.

A story is either exceptional or it’s not worth listening to.

  • Great stories are trusted. Trust is the scarcest resource we have got left. No one trusts anyone. People don’t trust the spokespeople on commercials, people don’t trust politicians and their stories anymore (is it a “better life for all” or “a better life for some”). As a result, no entrepreneur succeeds in telling a story unless he has earned the credibility to tell that story. Tell your story, live your story, that’s how you earn integrity. Telling a story and doing the opposite renders your story to be a fairy tale.
  • Great stories are subtle. Surprisingly, the fewer details an entrepreneurs says, the more powerful the story becomes. Less is more.

A great story teller understand that allowing people to draw their own conclusions is far more effective than announcing the punch line.

  • Great stories happen fast. First impressions are far more powerful than we give them credit for.

What’s Your Story?: Selling is Transference of Emotions

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Most people care the most about the things that touch, move, and inspire them.

Customers make decisions based on emotion, and then look for the facts that support these decisions.

Thus it behooves every entrepreneur to learn how to craft stories from their personal experience and the world at large that make an emotional connection, as well as tie in the facts.

In his book “Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story,“ Peter Guber asserts that: Everyone today, whether they know it or not, is in the emotional transportation business, and compelling stories are the best way for you to move your business forward.

Selling is about a transference of emotions, not a presentation of facts.

Storytelling is selling.

Telling facts to your customers is not a guarantee that they will buy from you. If you are not telling stories (that resonates), you are not selling.