The 80-minute MBA: A poem by John Knell

Sep 20, 2018

At WYSTC 2018 we heard from John Knell, co-author of The 80 Minute MBA and one of the UK’s leading thinkers on the changing face of work and organisations, culture, leadership, sustainability, and the essentials of modern communication.

Sustainability: “If you can factor the planet in everything you do and know the weather outlook is anything but fine…” – John Knell, 2018

The sustainability debate has changed. According to John Knell, business success bought at the cost of the planet is not a successful business. It is time to stop being skeptical about our damage to the planet. While the data is clear, nothing speaks better than a visual to demonstrate how badly the planet is cooking, whether a photograph of a family finding refuge on beaches to escape bushfires, to  hurricanes as global news events, public opinion has not been moved by science, but what people see with their own eyes.

“I think it matters to you, it matters to your brands, it matters to how you think about opening up a conversation about what sustainable tourism is. I would be very relaxed about us continuing to produce carbon the way we are if we had the 95% confidence level that actually tells us we weren’t causing these problems and the problems weren’t accelerating. As stewards of the planet now for future generations, I don’t see how as business leaders we cannot be placing this at the top of the agenda.”

Leadership: “If you know you are weak as well as strong, know where you’re heading on the map, what shape you’re in and who to take along, and the books on leadership are mostly crap…” – John Knell, 2018

On average, there are five leadership books published per day. In John Knells’s opinion, most are awful and written by powerful white men, basically claiming ‘you too can be an amazing leader if only you were more like me’. We need to forget things like charisma, but instead be ourselves in a more skillful way. We must forget strategy and focus on excellent execution.

Leaders need to know where their organisations are headed, understand how people are feeling, build great teams and understand what skills they do and do not have. Leaders are becoming inpatient and must take the time to listen to others, to think and to plan.

Culture: “If you see work as a shared adventure and skip to the office at a time that suits, and you’ve replaced your biscuits with revitalising fruits…” – John Knell, 2018

How do you make amazing workplaces? We have moved to a knowledge economy where the value of a company lies in people, new ideas, processes, systems and products. To motivate people, you need social capital and to focus on group motivation rather than the individual. Workplaces are communities of people, therefore solidarity is needed to bring people together to share a common goal. Also consider what brings energy to an organisation, such as ownership – autonomy means greater discretion and influence over when and how you do your job.

Conversation: “If you detect the voices of your prosumers and hear more than just blah, blah, blah…” – John Knell, 2018

We must convert marketing to conversation. All ideas are staged through conversation. Conversation doesn’t just shuffle the cards, it makes new cards; innovation is the product of conversation, different perspectives and ideas. Smartphones and the internet are now weapons of mass collaboration and we are no longer passive recipients of someone else’s message. We have become a many-to-many world where traditional broadcast media no longer have the impact and the reach they once had. It’s now about how to get communities to drive interest in what you’re doing.

To do this, we must act and think as media owners, learn how to co-create content and find new ways to speak to our audience. A business should always be looking around for the things that are starting to shift; we need to challenge ourselves in the way we craft our stories.

“If all of this you can duly follow and you’ve resolved the dotted bend, you’ll be ready for tomorrow, and which is more, you’re now an MBA, my friend.” – John Knell, 2018