Growing up, one topic was always off-limits in our family. It was spoken about in hushed terms between my parents, politely skirted around during conversations with other people, and if we kids brought it up, we were scolded that “it isn’t polite to talk/ask/think about those things.” The secrecy and implied shame that surrounded it still lingers with me today.

That topic was money. And the taboo was something we shared with many Australian families.

It was recently reported that we would rather talk about sex, religion or politics than discuss moneyOne in five of us say that we would prefer not to talk to anyone about our household finances. 39% of parents are more comfortable talking with their children about drugs and alcohol and 27% would rather talk about sex or dating than money.

I was discussing this taboo, and the research we were doing on it, with one of my friends recently. “What’s the big deal?” she asked. “There’s tonnes of things we don’t talk about.”

The big deal is this: it turns out that one large driver of financial wellbeing is the ability to talk about money openly and without shame. For one thing, money conversations help us to learn about what’s normal or what to expect when dealing with the complex world of finances. You can’t advocate for yourself or negotiate better deals and higher salaries if you don’t know when you’re being ripped off. For another, they help us to overcome the shame and stigma that many of us feel when we struggle with money, allowing us to reach out for help or simply find the reassurance that we are not alone with our struggles. As the saying goes, “a problem shared is a problem halved.” Finally, conversations build confidence and knowhow over time, making us better at asserting our rights, raising complaints, and dealing with financial institutions.

We’ve found evidence for the importance of conversations time and again in our research into best practice in building financial wellbeing. For instance, evidence shows that young people who have parents that talk to them about money as they are growing up have greater financial literacy, more positive attitudes towards moneyless debt and less likelihood of problematic credit card use as adults.

For some groups of people, the importance of money conversations is even greater. For instance, financial conversations are important for older Australians to protect their wellbeing and rights as they begin to seek support managing their finances as they age.

Similarly, being able to have healthy and open conversations about money helps women maintain their financial independence and security, and avoid situations of financial abuse and control by a partner or family member. The importance of conversations for women has been affirmed by recent initiatives, like ASIC’s Women talk money campaign, WIRE’s Women Talk Money Website, and Commonwealth Bank’s recently released Women’s Financial Wellbeing Guide.

In our next blog, we will discuss some practical strategies for designers of financial interventions that can help to get the conversation started.

This is the first post in a two-part blog series that examines the importance of financial conversations. This first post provides an overview of the research on the link between conversations and financial wellbeing.

Imagine that you’re sitting in a planning session with your department heads. Your VP of Marketing and your CTO are debating the merits of moving to an automated customer service platform. Marketing emphasizes the need for real-world customer experiences. IT stresses the cost savings and efficiencies to be gained via automation and outsourcing. Both have valid points – that’s not the problem. The problem is that neither are backing down. The conversation circles round and round for an hour, eating up everyone’s time.

This isn’t the first instance in which these team leaders have gone head-to-head on the issue. The frustration in the room is palpable. Ultimately, the onus falls on you – the Chief Executive – to build alignment with your teams. Where do you start? How do you identify the underlying tensions that might be driving the conversation around in a circle, stop the pattern, and act?

Don’t mistake awareness for ownership

In a circular conversation, the dialogue can go on endlessly as participants repeat the same pattern without moving toward any resolution. While a circular conversation may promote an awareness of core problems impacting your organization, the danger arises when leaders confuse awareness for true ownership. Awareness is a leader’s ability to be conscious of the disruptive, changing ways in which businesses are developing. Ownership is the leader’s mindset to boldly act despite disruption or changing ways of business.  Without ownership, teams may find themselves treading water – instead of aligning toward a shared aspiration or vision.

Karrikins Group founder Peter Sheahan discusses moving from awareness to ownership. 

Identify and uncover tradeoff sources straining alignment 

Leaders who aspire to drive alignment learn to differentiate between awareness and ownership and move toward ownership to create alignment. But it’s equally as important that they learn how to identify the oft-concealed tradeoffs that are propelling these circular conversations to create an environment in which people feel safe discussing these tradeoffs.

At Karrikins, we define tradeoffs as the pull between diametric forces in an organization that influence decisions, actions, and beliefs. When leaders learn how to identify and thoughtfully maneuver around – or between – these tradeoffs, they can create an environment that fosters trust, collaboration, and greater clarity in decision making, stop the pattern of circular conversations, and ultimately guide their team to alignment.

Through the close discussions we’ve had with leading CEOs and changemakers across the business spectrum, we’ve identified several sources of tradeoffs to help illuminate the underlying strains that impact organizational alignment, and have developed the following exercise to help you think about tradeoffs at your organization. 

Step 1

List 5-10 behaviors leaders demonstrate at your organization that have contributed to the organization’s success up until now. These are organizational strengths.

Step 2

When overused, strengths can have unintended consequences, constrain decision making and even stand in the way of transformational change. Circle the strengths that may need to be let go of or reframed to reach your desired future state. These strengths, while perhaps valuable looking back, may not serve you today or tomorrow – especially as the business environment changes.

Step 3

For each of the strengths circled, name the corresponding behavior shift(s) necessary if these strengths were deselected or reoriented.

The outcome of this thinking may highlight the inherent tradeoffs within teams and organizations that are influencing behaviors, decision making, misalignment, and friction. Acknowledging that these tradeoffs exist, and naming them, is the first step a leader can take in moving toward greater alignment.

When teams are empowered, aligned, and have shifted from awareness to ownership, people begin to move toward disruption – a new way of looking at the same problem that lifts the approach out of circular conversations. They lean into disruption instead of distancing themselves from it, shifting from a mindset of frustration, anxiety, and disbelief to one of urgency, excitement, and conviction. Ultimately, they are more prepared to make better decisions, take clear action, and deliver on the shared aspiration of the company.

Amidst the backdrop of the higher-order challenge of diversity in Hollywood, and the ongoing challenge the media industry is facing at the hands of technology, changing demographics and content consumption patterns, Warner Bros. has found an opportunity to lean into the disruption.

Rather than be paralyzed by the inevitable change across the industry, this iconic film house sees opportunity in confronting these disruptions head on. Warner Bros. is boldly leaning into this challenge, seeking to create change that leads to greater diversity, creativity and opportunity – or as we like to say, “Shared Value.”

We believe that community programs can be more than philanthropic investments. If done well, these initiatives can drive real change in communities, build brand equity, and align and advance enterprise and community strategy to ultimately create more value for stakeholders.

In partnership with nonprofit group Ghetto Film School and mentorship program Young Storytellers, the 95-year-old film house is designing and implementing classes that teach the basics of filmmaking and storytelling to encourage young people from predominantly Latin and African American communities to find and hone their creative voices (1).


For Warner Bros., getting involved in schools is not only a social impact initiative, but helps to position the film studio as a leading, future-focused content creator and employer that meets the needs of an evolving, maturing, and increasingly more diverse population.

“It’s almost a business imperative,” said Christopher Mack, head of scripted content at Warner Bros.’s Stage 13, a newly formed digital video studio focused on multicultural viewers. “In 10 years, the audience is going to be more diverse than ever, and if we can’t create content for that audience, we become irrelevant.” Source: LA Times, Ryan Faughnder, Movie studio seeks a behind-the-scenes role in L.A. schools to help fix Hollywood’s inclusion problem

For the film behemoth and Hollywood, the journey towards inclusion has just begun and the work ahead is immense (nearly 90% of all leads are cast by white actors as recently as 2016). But, global blockbusters featuring predominantly black cast members, like “Black Panther,” which became the third highest-grossing film of all time, signal that the moment for change is right now.


Community-focused efforts can deliver greater value when business and social outcomes are not considered to be in conflict. Pure philanthropy does not always produce more impact than strategic Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – activities where both business and societies benefit. Corporations can also benefit from having a positive impact.  Highly effective, high-impact strategic CSR faithfully deploys shared value principles in a way that maximizes both the business value and social impact of community investment. ​

By leaning into disruption and aligning social impact with long-term business strategy, Warner Bros. is amplifying its impact in the world and will ultimately be better positioned commercially to tap into this modern paradigm shift.

To learn more about how we help companies elevate cause and commerce, click here to get into contact with us.

  1. LA Times, Ryan Faughnder, Movie studio seeks a behind-the-scenes role in L.A. schools to help fix Hollywood’s inclusion problem

Each day, there are thousands of subconscious decisions that we make out of habit. Habits are extremely powerful and without them we would be overwhelmed by the decisions we are required to make each day. It is part of the reason Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and others have made a habit out of wearing the same or similar outfits each day; they are attempting to reduce decision fatigue and automate as many less significant choices as possible so they can focus on the decisions that matter.

Habits, however, are a double-edged sword. Habits can just as easily nudge us towards unproductive, misaligned or even damaging behaviors. It is because of this duality that makes habits one of the hardest organizational hurdles to overcome during deselection.

Maybe you are a CFO who is accustomed to using Excel spreadsheets for your board reports. Then, you implement an ERP that can produce board reports for you. Your habits might very well keep you using Excel for a long time after the launch of the ERP. You might not even realize how your own behavior is influencing the actions of others, directly impacting the adoption of the ERP and your ROI on what was supposed to be a transformative implementation.

Habits typically provide a level of comfort or reward, subtly incentivizing people to fall back into business as usual and subverting deselection, not because of serious disagreement with the strategic plan or the inability of the person to learn a new skill, but because of there is a degree of safety, reward and familiarity pulling individuals towards the old way of doing things. This is true for personal habits like smoking cigarettes or going to the gym as well as professional habits such as creating proposals in a specific template or getting through all your emails each day. If you are the CFO in the example above, you may continue to use Excel (potentially while continuing to emphasize the value of the ERP to your staff) because of the comfort of knowing how to create the report in Excel or safety of knowing that it was done correctly because of your familiarity with Excel over the new ERP.

In one organization, we saw a sales team where, like at Honda, quarterly sales goals had been removed to refocus the organization on longer-term priorities. Despite the sales executive being aligned to the change, his sales team almost immediately set up their own scorecards and started measuring themselves against each other as a way of measuring their performance. None of the practical, process-focused changes such as removing the quotas from reports had any impact because the habits of the sales people had not been fully addressed. Instead, the sales people had to talk through why they felt they needed this kind of ranking, what it accomplished for them as individuals and as a team, and how they could experience success, and feel rewarded, without it.

Successful cultures of deselection and alignment can reorient around the most important priorities quickly, shedding habits in the process. When something is deselected, it is important to take a minute to catalog the habits that are being challenged by the deselection. These lingering habits may be the result of lagging processes, systems and incentives or perceived value of the old way of doing things. To help break these old behaviors, support your colleagues in identifying the habits that are getting in the way of organizational transformation, then create barriers to prevent falling back on old habits (such as restricting access to old but popular software programs or removing mentions of products that you are trying to discontinue from all sales and marketing materials) and develop incentives to create new habits that are aligned with the changes in your organization brought about by deselection.

This is the final post in a five-part blog series that examines the cultural barriers to deselection. They include the impacts of ownership, identity, emotion, habit and collaboration on the ability of an organization to deselect, align and increase capacity. The first post provides an overview of deselection and why the cultural aspects of it are important.

In most business cultures, emotional considerations are thought of as secondary to the objective research, data and processes that drive decision-making. The ability of your organization to successfully deselect and align, however, will require more than just diagnostics, decision charts and workflows. It will take the clarity, communication and conviction by leadership to embed the need to change within the culture of your organization.

The emotions associated with deselection, especially in the early stages of the process, usually skew towards the negative. Anger, fear and confusion are common sentiments that people experience when faced with uncertainty. These reactions are natural and to be expected, yet they can be managed and alleviated through effective communication, employee engagement, transparency and well-prepared leadership. While these may seem obvious, many organizations undergoing realignment and transformation do not properly address the related emotions – potentially impacting morale, the organization’s reputation and the bottom line.

As you read through the stories below, keep in mind how you’ve addressed similar challenges before – could you have communicated more effectively with your associates who were most impacted by the process? Did you bring a diverse group of stakeholders along the journey or was the hard work done by a subset of your organization?

“Without Us, It’s The New Yrok Times”: Managing Frustration During a Time of Change

The newspaper industry has experienced more layoffs, consolidations and realignments than most other industries over the last fifteen years. On June 28th, hundreds of New York Times (NYT) staff members walked out of their offices to protest the elimination of the stand-alone copy desk, a team that includes more than 100 copy editors. NYT’s justification is to streamline the editing process so the organization can be faster and more agile when news breaks. While it is unclear whether this change will be effective, the process (as demonstrated by employee response) has had a negative impact on the newspaper.

In a letter to leadership asking that they rethink their decision, the copy editors tried to explain the emotions they were experiencing, reflected in statements such as:

  • “We have begun the humiliating process of justifying our continued presence at The New York Times.”
  • “After…an internal report that called for the elimination of ‘low-value editing’ and made it all but clear which stages of editing this referred to”
  • “Morale is low throughout the newsroom [and many of us] from editors to reporters to photo editors to support staff, are angry, embittered and scared of losing our jobs.”

While the NYT will need to transform, it has not effectively addressed the emotional impact deselection is having on its staff. While the reaction to leadership eliminating something is usually not this public or at this scale, anger can develop when an individual or team feels overlooked and disconnected from the process. Leadership needs to engage employees by demonstrating they understand the impacts of the transformation, inviting key stakeholders to the table throughout the entire journey and balancing tough decisions with respect and empathy.

Nothing to Fear? Breaking the Standard of Long Hours in the Japanese Workplace

Employees typically fear deselection for two reasons: it may impact their reputation or result in repercussions on their work. Regarding reputation, employees often encounter a stigma associated with pushing back or giving up projects, fearing they will be perceived as unwilling to take on new work – especially when a colleague may jump at the (potentially misaligned) opportunity. At one Tokyo-based public relations firm, Sunny Side Up, many employees refused to leave work early one Friday a month (called “Premium Friday”) despite being encouraged by the company and Japanese government (and getting paid) to do so. Employees may also fear that the elimination of a project, product or process will lead to them no longer being considered an expert in their field, altering their workplace identity.

The fear of repercussion can also lead to push back against the process. There is fear that deselection may only add responsibilities, through additional meetings, diagnostics and analyses, and the actual elimination of processes or projects will not occur. Additionally, it may have direct repercussions on an employee’s workplace performance. Elimination or changes to a product or service could make it more difficult for teams to meet their performance metrics, raise concerns with customers and partners and lead to layoffs of colleagues that you have known for years.

Effective communication and a demonstrable commitment to the process are key to alleviating this fear. If leaders can effectively signal that there is a light at the end of the tunnel (which means you have a strategy to get there!), morale will likely be stronger, despite a larger workload in the short run. By communicating the goals of deselection and the impact leaders expect it to have, you can create greater buy-in and ease uncertainty.

Finally, commitment to the process can help reduce the fear your organization may face. Leading by example (one employee at Sunny Side Up said they would only leave earlier if their boss did), sitting down with employees or rewarding those who successfully deselect (or have made serious efforts to do so) can help to eliminate the fear that saying “no” to misaligned activities will impact employees’ workplace reputations or result in repercussions.

Rebuilding Blocks: Alleviating Confusion During Times of Change

When you begin to transform or eliminate parts of your business, employees will often feel confused and uncertain about the direction of the organization and their own personal and professional growth. Transparency by leadership can help manage the ambiguity. While the problem and the recommended solution may seem obvious, all types of organizations have attempted to restrict deselection to leadership or a small task force alienating staff members, hurting their reputation and negatively impacting operations in the process.

When Lego was amid its amazing turnaround, going from the verge of bankruptcy to the biggest toy company in the world, CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp knew difficult times were coming – including selling off misaligned product lines (clothing, video games, movies), closing factories, and laying off employees. To help manage the uncertainty around realignment, Knudstorp visited factory employees (spending 40 hours each year visiting the five shifts of factory workers), providing warnings about layoffs and offering retraining.

When discussing how he dealt with employee concerns during this time, he responded “[The employees] were asking: What does the future look like? Of course, I couldn’t guarantee it. But I could show I care for them. Being honest and transparent is important for morale.”

In Connecticut, the majority of workers, despite being laid off, remained on the job to help unwind operations at the Lego factory, a degree of loyalty that Lego likely wouldn’t have experienced if Knudstorp wasn’t as forthcoming.

This is the fourth post in a five-part blog series that examines the cultural barriers to deselection. They include the impacts of ownership, identity, emotion, habit and collaboration on the ability of an organization to deselect, align and increase capacity. The first post provides an overview of deselection and why the cultural aspects of it are important.

Imagine you and your family throw a large party at your house at the end of each summer that concludes with a build-your-own-smores bar and ghost stories around a big, backyard bonfire. It is something you, your family and friends look forward to every year, and it’s something you are known for in the neighborhood. However, this year, your Homeowners’ Association (HOA) is putting to vote a covenant that bans indoor and outdoor fires. The HOA argues that these changes are environmentally friendly and will increase the value of the neighborhood homes. Assuming you believe that the HOA estimates of the benefits are correct, do you vote to approve or reject the fire ban?

The answer will depend on your identity and self-image. If you see yourself as the social butterfly of the neighborhood and the annual bonfire as representative of who you (and your family) are, you may vote “No” on the ban. However, if you see yourself as member of the community beyond just your household, you may be willing to deselect solid fuel use despite some pain points for you personally, because it will help the HOA meet its long-term strategic goals of increasing housing prices in the neighborhood and improving the quality of life of its residents.

We have the same struggles at work. How we see ourselves in the organization plays a direct role in what we choose to do with our time and where we dedicate our resources. If you are the financial modeler who is great with Excel, you may be challenged to use SAP. If you are the Java guru and there’s a decision to move to a new code base, you may be hard pressed to give up the libraries you’ve developed thus far. As individuals, we must be willing to let go of parts of our identities in order to both deselect and transform the organization.

When we talk to employees across departments in the companies we work with, we commonly here “we”. However, it is surprisingly common that “we” means something local like “Jim’s team”, the sales department, the fifth floor or many other groups that do not represent the overall organization, and there may be conflicts regarding what is in the best interest of a group and what is in best interest of the organization.

Now, think about the computer engineer’s perspective when asked to eliminate Programming Language A (PLA), which she is an expert in and has used for the last fifteen years, and move exclusively to Programming Language B (PLB), which she has little working knowledge of, is difficult to learn and will likely result in some of her colleagues being laid off. She will push back against these changes if she sees herself primarily as part of the IT department that will be negatively impacted in the short-term. On the other hand, if she sees herself as an important influencer in the organization and clearly understands the value created by moving to PLB, she will be more willing to deselect PLA and help her colleagues do the same.

It is common for individuals and organizations to perceive their identity as tied to the day-to-day inputs of their work (e.g. I am a computer engineer) and markers like a title, the size of a team or even an office space rather than seeing themselves as playing important roles in the long-term strategy of the organization (e.g. our goal is to structure and deliver information to our clients as quickly and as consistently as technology allows). To help alleviate these day-to-day biases, StickerGiant, a Longmont, Colorado company, uses Open Book Management, a management method that includes transparent financials and strategic meetings with the full staff, to help them understand how their day-to-day responsibilities and workplace identities are tied to the long-term strategy and that they must try to align or deselect tasks that do not fit into that strategy.

To help employees identify themselves in a more strategic light, create a corporate culture where employees ask the right questions about the intersection of their own motivations and responsibilities and the goals of the organization. This will build ongoing alignment to the highest value activities and results. If the culture creates the expectation that people will both understand and challenge themselves in this way, deselection will become a natural process that people go through on a regular basis for their teams, the organization and themselves. 

This is the third post in a five-part blog series that examines the cultural barriers to deselection. They include the impacts of ownership, identity, emotion, habit and collaboration on the ability of an organization to deselect, align and increase capacity. The first post provides an overview of deselection and why the cultural aspects of it are important. It can be accessed here.

In a shockingly challenging year, Honda, historically known for automotive quality and their production line expertise, issued five recalls of the Japanese version of the Fit vehicle. It was 2014, and the Fit was already an established brand within the Honda family, making the recalls especially painful. In response to these challenges, Honda executives owned deselection: they announced that they would be streamlining the number of model variations to limit production and assembly complexity, took a pay cut and appointed a quality czar to help solve the issues around the supply and distribution models that were partly responsible for the problems with the Fit.

When deselection is owned by the top through clear and specific actions, it sets the tone for the whole organization about what is most important. Honda executives took deselection a step further and stopped providing annual sales forecasts to refocus on long-term success rather than short-term results. By eliminating forecasting, they created the capacity needed to focus on how to address the critical quality issues that had come up in the past year.

Although Honda executives took the initiative in this case, ownership of deselection needs to come from both the top and the bottom of the organization. From a bottom-up perspective, your employees may see deselection as something done at the executive level where they make the “tough decisions”, however deselection happens organically when people at all levels feel empowered to say “no” and own how they allocate their time and energy. Your employees should be asking themselves whether the tasks they are performing are in service of the long-term strategic goals of the organization and not just doing them solely because you have always done things that way, because there are personal incentives to not deselecting or for any other misaligned reason.

Deselection does not have to be big. For your employees, it could be evaluating whether a single product offering is truly aligned with the company strategy, removing redundancies from an internal process or reexamining who your current customers are and whether they match your target market.

Deselection is painful and will require making tough decisions that will not satisfy all of your customers or employees. At Honda, deselection was challenging because it meant some plants had to retool, and some regions didn’t get the model options they wanted, however it was far less painful than having to issue multiple recalls in a year for a company whose identity was centered around quality.

Already, Honda is experiencing success due to deselection. In 2016, Honda gained market share in the US market, not because of new vehicle offerings, historically how automakers gain market share, but because of higher-quality, streamlined models of their flagship vehicles. If Honda executives gave lip service to problems of quality and misalignment surrounding the Fit but did not take ownership of making the difficult decisions to deselect, they would likely not have experienced this success.

This is the second post in a five-part blog series that examines the cultural barriers to deselection. They include the impacts of ownership, identity, emotion, habit and collaboration on the ability of an organization to deselect, align and increase capacity. The previous post provides an overview of deselection and why the cultural aspects of it are important. It can be accessed here.


Contact: Cathy Lewis

845 679 2188

Cathy Lewis Publicity, Inc.

June 29, 2017, DENVER, CO – Karrikins Group announced today that it has been named a Colorado Company to Watch, acknowledging the drive, excellence and influence of Karrikins Group as a growing company in the state. Colorado Companies to Watch honors second stage companies that develop valuable products and services, create quality jobs, enrich communities, and create new industries throughout Colorado.

“We’re thrilled to be chosen as one of Colorado’s 50 most innovative companies. Karrikins Group was founded at the intersection of social impact and commercial gain, and to be honored as a driving force in this great state has tremendous significance for us,” said Peter Sheahan, CEO of Karrikins Group.

“We are pleased to recognize Karrikins Group as one of Colorado’s 50 most innovative 2nd stage companies,” says Rick Ninneman, Colorado Companies to Watch Board Chairman. “These companies contribute significantly to the growth and economic independence of the state by developing new services and products, creating jobs, enriching communities and generating new industries.”

Colorado Companies to Watch works to recognize the driving economic forces in the state by focusing not merely on growth, but on the true impact and influence of an organization. By focusing on second stage companies across the state, the program offers distinct insight into the state’s economic landscape and recognizes organizations often overlooked for the critical impact they have in their industries, communities and regions, as well as our state as a whole.

About Karrikins Group

We are a behavior change company transforming organizations and communities.

We unleash our deep expertise in creating large-scale transformation to define, develop, execute, and measure organizational, cultural, and behavioral change programs in service of the following 3 client objectives:

  1. Build growth enabled organizations and supporting cultures and leadership capabilities
  2. Develop new mindsets, capabilities, and behaviors in the areas of innovation, leadership, and influence so companies can thrive in an increasingly disrupted world
  3. Drive new mindsets, capabilities, and behaviors in audiences over which our clients have no direct control – public, partnerships, industry, value chain

About Colorado Companies to Watch

Colorado Companies to Watch is an awards program honoring 2nd-stage companies headquartered in the state of Colorado. The 450 companies that have been honored since the program’s inception demonstrate high performance in the marketplace or exhibit innovative products or processes. The program is designed to seek businesses from a wide range of industries throughout the state, not just the major metropolitan areas. The 50 companies selected each year make an astounding impact on Colorado’s economy by collectively providing thousands of jobs and contributing millions of dollars in revenue. The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) launched the program in 2009 in conjunction with the Edward Lowe Foundation and valuable community partners from across Colorado.

For more information on Colorado Companies to Watch, visit and Twitter @ColoradoCTW. 

I have yet to meet a colleague, client or friend who has too much time. We are all inundated every day with a multitude of tasks, large and small, that fill up our calendars and eat away at our capacity. Take your own struggles and multiply them by thousands of other people to start to understand the challenges around organizational capacity.

In our personal lives, capacity constraints can prevent us from achieving long-term goals like learning a new skill, connecting more deeply with friends and loved ones or going back to school. Organizationally, it often creates a crisis culture where the most urgent tasks, primarily around the core business, get done (and often done well), but the strategic goals like new product development, improving quality, re-engaging customers, deploying new technologies or other strategic transformation efforts are pushed off till another day when we have more time.  

The problem is the day with an open block on your calendar to focus on strategic goals never arrives. Even the “tiger teams” that get pulled together to focus on strategy struggle to find time and resources to dedicate to the task.

In the face of these challenges, it’s common for leaders to launch efforts to prioritize tasks. The result of which are tools, guidelines and workflows designed to speed up decision-making, set standards, create a rank order of objectives and make results more predictable; most of the companies we work with are pretty good at developing and implementing these diagnostics – in fact, that’s where they spend most of their time and energy. The downside is more material to learn, maintain and keep current, and the net result is rarely an opportunity to work on strategic goals. Additionally, these diagnostics create conditions where the cultural challenges around capacity creation are at best an afterthought. Here’s the thing. Time and time again, companies have proven that, to use an old axiom, “culture eats strategy for lunch.”

So what might be a different approach to finding elusive capacity in an organization that is stretched thin? The answer is to forget about prioritization and instead take an aggressive and committed approach to deselection and alignment.

  • Prioritizing means saying you will do some things today and others tomorrow. It is an ordering exercise designed to assign a qualitative or quantitative importance score to each task based on a set of criteria.
  • Deselection is different from prioritization in that it means saying “no” to new tasks that may not be aligned with your strategy and mercilessly eliminating existing, misaligned tasks. This is a triage exercise, understanding that all tasks can’t be saved based on our existing capacity, we need to make difficult decisions about what needs to be jettisoned.

So why don’t more organizations eliminate responsibilities that are orthogonal to the long-term strategic goals of the organization? While it is easy to pay lip service to deselection, it is much harder to align and deliver on that promise. Seen through the lens of culture, it is no surprise that companies are historically bad at deselecting and historically great at over-committing, stretching resources too thin and failing to deliver their best value because they are stuck in what they’ve always done.        

In the next  four blog posts, we will unpack the cultural inhibitors to deselection and how addressing them will create time, focus and results for your business. They include the impacts of ownership, identity, emotion, habit and collaboration on efforts to deselect and align an organization to its highest order value. When organizations embed deselection into their culture, it creates capacity to work on what matters most – the projects, products, clients and employees who are most closely aligned with the strategic goals of the organization. Keep in mind that you need a well-defined and well-articulated strategy against which to align and deselect. Deselection won’t matter if you have the wrong strategy!

You may find some of the topics uncomfortable as you think about how you manage your own time and how your company works. That’s OK! That means you are starting to think about the context within which you make decisions and take actions, and it is only by digging into context that you can truly embrace deselection and alignment and start to find more time to work on what matters most

This is the first post in a five-part blog series that examines the cultural barriers to deselection. They include the impacts of ownership, identity, emotion, habit and collaboration on the ability of an organization to deselect, align and increase capacity. This first post provides an overview of deselection and why the cultural aspects of it are important.

Consumers have altered how they shop. Retail executives, however, are not necessarily changing how they run their day-to-day operations to deal with the disruptions they know are affecting their industry. To survive the shifts, however, will take creative solutions that make shopping easier and more exciting. Retailers need to move from awareness and acknowledgment of the challenges to action with the right strategic and cultural response.

“Even if you as an executive recognize the change and set the strategy, if your staff is not seeking opportunities to innovate, then the strategy becomes merely potential on a page,” says YPO member Peter Sheahan, CEO of Karrikins Group, a behavior change company, and author of “Matter: Move Beyond the Competition, Create More Value and Become the Obvious Choice,

At a recent Geniecast during the second annual YPO Innovation Week, Sheahan shared strategies for creating a culture capable of executing new ideas, scaling new business models, and innovating in the face of change and disruption in the retail industry.


“The single most critical difference between organizations that not only survive disruption but thrive in the market is the quality of the assumptions they make about what is changing,” says Sheahan. Leaders have to respond in the right way at the right time. While this may sound daunting, keep in mind that “nothing ever changes in an industry that nobody predicted.” Disruptors tend to work on the periphery of an industry for several years before they gain momentum, as did both Uber and Airbnb. “The reason people make bad decisions is not because they failed to see what was around them, but because change is initially really slow — and then it’s not, leaving companies scrambling to catch up when it accelerates” says Sheahan. “The single biggest destroyer of value during times of disruption is the quality of the assumptions that the executive makes.”


Most businesses wait until change has arrived before they begin to invest in innovation. As a result, they lose significant market share or momentum in creating the next version of their business. Sheahan recommends taking controlled risks with the partnerships you form, the channels you embrace, the operating models you use or the products and services you develop. The goal: “to create models for what the world is going to look like versus what the world used to look like and go through the necessary learning curve while the risks are manageable.”


Retailers are reimagining what brick-and-mortar can be. Burberry, for example, reinvented its London flagship store to compete with its top competitor, online stores, which can sell products for up to 25 percent less. Rather than cut prices, Burberry sought to create an in-person experience that was worth the extra cost. “The research tells us the issue we face with online competition isn’t just price,” says Sheahan. “It’s actually that there is convenience, more choice, more availability, the ability to shop around and transparency, and as Burberry discovered, the ability for a more customized experience.” As a result, Burberry created in-store customer alerts for staff, recommendations based on availability and ever-changing catwalk displays based on the cumulative buying history of the customers in the store at that moment.


Innovation is not about trying anything and everything. There are many ways to innovate and it will come together differently for each organization. “Get clarity as to how you intend to win,” says Sheahan. “If you haven’t given any direction as to where you want ideas to come from and what value they are ultimately supposed to serve, if you get any ideas at all, they’ll be all over the map and useless.” Once you know how you want to differentiate yourself, there are specific steps you can take to get there.


To build a culture of innovation, you have to have the right mindset – the willingness to invest in innovation. If you are unwilling to take a risk on employees’ ideas, then you are actually sending a message to your employees to maintain the status quo and “you will eventually condition your people not to be innovative,” says Sheahan. “You’re not taking a risk if you’re not putting time, effort and capital behind it.”


There are five key drivers that a leader can change to influence the culture of an organization: objective, emotional, structural, habitual and social. “Within social context are the rituals you perpetuate, the stories you tell and the language you use, the standards you set and the symbols and messages you send through your own behavior,” says Sheahan. “Going after those four levers and those related to the other four drivers will enable you to intentionally create a culture which triggers and supports the behaviors that lead to innovation.”

Article by Melissa Fleming 

There’s a million reasons to go into business. Jeffery Shaw and the team at Creative Warriors believe the reason to go into business is to build something that matters. To know our contributions matter. But how do you create the most value within your business? With today’s ever-changing business economy, you aren’t just competing in within your industry anymore. Our choices have become worldwide. So how do we keep ahead of the game? How do we maintain a business that matters, and become the obvious choice?

Dr. Julie Williamson joins the conversation at Creative Warriors to discuss Building a Business that Matters. Julie Williamson is the Chief Growth Enabler of the Karrikins Group and the co-author of “Matter: Move Beyond the Competition, Create More Value, and Become The Obvious Choice.”

Highlights from the conversation include: 

  • As an entrepreneur, how do you create the most value?
  • We go into business to create something that matters. It is passion driven.
  • People lose their perspective on what’s happening in the world.
  • The edge of disruption is not an end destination, it continually moves.
  • Maintain an elevated perspective.
  • Turn your ideas into an insight.
  • It takes a certain amount of boldness to play high in your relationships.
  • Continue to push yourself to be meaningful to bigger buyers.
  • The hard work is being willing to make a difference.

Check out the interview here:

Michael Mink shares 8 Ideas on Refreshing your Message: 

1. Cater to No. 1.

Put consumers in the center of everything you do, says Frances Dillard, director of marketing and global brand lead for Driscoll’s, a leading supplier of fresh berries.

Driscoll’s consumer research shows the brand delivers on the “emotional promise of making ordinary moments a bit more special,” she said.

“Remember, consumers make a purchase based on how a product or brand makes them feel — so tug at the heart in addition to appealing to the brain,” Dillard added.

2. Tell your story.

“Marketing campaigns are one of the most effective ways to amplify your brand image and distinguish it, particularly when they underscore that which is inherently true about the organization,” said Mark Viden, vice president of brand marketing for Dignity Health, one of the nation’s largest health systems.

“It is critical for a company to have a common vision that engages both consumers and employees alike, as we do with Dignity Health’s Hello Humankindness campaign,” he said.

3. Evolve.

Peter Sheahan, who along with Julie Williamson wrote “Matter: Move Beyond The Competition, Create More Value, and Become the Obvious Choice,” points to how Nike (NKE) established itself as much more than a shoe and apparel company to its customers with its Nike+ platform.

Nike “elevated its impact beyond the products it makes by connecting with the ultimate outcomes sought by consumers — higher dedication to and better results from their fitness efforts,” said Sheahan, founder and CEO of the Karrikins Group, a global consultancy.

“Nike is now a company that builds great shoes, and also delivers diagnostics, goal tracking, and global performance benchmarking,” he said. “It is creating positive behavior change in one of the toughest areas — health and wellness.”

4. Rebrand.

When it comes to communicating your identity, updating your company name can pay dividends, especially if you’ve evolved your capabilities significantly. That’s from Nick Luff, CFO, RELX Group (RELX), a global provider of information and analytics.

While their previous name, Reed Elsevier, had more than a century’s worth of history, with “our transformation from print to digital and now increasingly analytics, we were looking for a more modern, innovative name that reflected where we are today as well as where we’re going,” Luff said. “The moniker RELX Group better represents the scope of our business units.”

5. Align with influencers.

Seek out those who embody the key values of your brand, and who can be a great spokesperson, says Michael Cunningham, chancellor of National University System, and its anchor institution, National University.

6. Do so also with companies.

For example, Sheahan says that when consumer goods giant Unilever (UN) partnered with the Red Cross and Unicef for hygiene initiatives, there was a marked improvement in children’s health in non-Western markets.

7. Evaluate the status quo.

Marketing and branding involves a creative component that leaders can nurture. Mike Fucci, chairman of the board of Deloitte, the professional service firm giant, says that, in general, to be a “dynamic and effective leader, it’s important to always look for opportunities to step outside of your comfort zone and challenge your assumptions.

“An important part of being a leader is building a coalition of diversely gifted people who bring a unique talent to the team. When each member’s strength is maximized and recognized, the coalition of uniquely talented people can solve the world’s toughest challenges.”

8.. Highlight your differentiators.

Leverage your company’s strengths to give consumers credible reasons to believe the brand’s unique positioning, Dillard advises.

She says Driscoll’s commitment to great-tasting berries starts with proprietary seedlings “all done with Mother Nature — no GMOs. Sharing the why and how with consumers allows for a richer and more believable storytelling.

“We prioritize people and the planet for the greater good. These days, consumers expect trusted brands to lead positive innovation and change — so live up to their expectations.”

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