Ken Tencer

About Ken Tencer

Ken Tencer is a global thought leader on innovation and intrapreneurship who helps organizations master better futures.

Posts by Ken Tencer:

Leadership and the Power of Culture

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Culture, they say, is what happens in your business when you’re out of the room.

If that makes corporate culture sound like an afterthought, that’s not far from the truth. Traditional management theory focuses on creating rules, policies and reporting structures to ensure things get done. When I was in business school, no one suggested that leadership was really about creating a work environment that excites and motivates people to excel.

But then, my degree program was in “Business Management,” not “Business Leadership.”

I was pleased to discover a revised definition of leadership developed by U.S. consultant James Kerr in an article called “Leader or Manager?” at “Managers monitor and adjust today’s work,” Kerr writes. “Leaders look forward and imagine the possibilities that the future may bring, in order to set direction.”

I wonder how many entrepreneurs never progress beyond “monitoring”? Whether they got an MBA or hard-scrabbled their way up, who was there to tell them that their true calling is not to manage operational details, but to envision a better future for their entire team to work toward?

Growth is a choice. As a working entrepreneur at a consulting firm that our new team wants to see grow, I view my job very differently now. I see “management” as a limiting concept, one that implies controlling people and processes to accomplish defined goals. Leadership is about influencing, motivating and inspiring – a more abstract discipline that unlocks people’s potential and replaces finite goals with infinite possibility.

Many entrepreneurs are happy doing the same thing every day. But if you truly want to grow your business, you have to decide if you’re a manager or a leader – and then develop an executive team with the skills you lack.

This is harder than it sounds. When you start as an entrepreneur, there’s rarely anyone beside you to depend on, tell you what you’re good at, or discuss new ideas. As your organization grows, you need people who will not only talk business with you, but dare to disagree. You have to be mature enough not just to delegate, but to understand that sometimes you are the bottleneck.

I realized this at 50. Now I wonder how things might have gone if I’d figured it out 15 years earlier. The sooner you recognize what you’re not good at, you can start building a smarter, more robust business.

After years in manufacturing, I teamed up with designer John Cardoso to build a marketing-consultancy specializing in design thinking. But we were limited by our own thinking – that we had to be the smartest guys in the room. Over time, we learned our insights could transform large organizations. But we believed we lacked the contacts and experience to open those bigger, global doors.

As we found the courage to think bigger, we realized that it wasn’t our strategy that had to change but our culture. Culture humanizes corporate strategy, by clarifying relationships between an organization, its team members and customers.

So we changed our structure and culture to fit the needs of “A players.” We established ambitious goals for our company that would make high performers feel part of something great. We created a platform that enables talent to do the work they love, without grounding them in rules and red tape. As a result, we’ve suddenly been able to attract brilliant new talents who have re-engineered huge organizations and launched game-changing brands.

The secret? I’m not “running things” any more. We give people clear goals and freedom to make their own decisions. We found a COO to monitor the company, freeing me to focus on supporting our talent, and enhancing our culture of learning and personal growth.

Our philosophy is “manage daily, lead always.” We actually created more meetings – but the goal isn’t to check up on people. Our group leads meet regularly so they can build relationships, support each other, and solve problems together.

Does that sound too “soft?” We’ve discovered that collaboration is a competitive edge. In today’s world, consultants don’t have all the answers. Breakthroughs come from working with clients, building trust, developing empathy. Our culture, you see, describes not just how we work internally, but how we create value for our clients. That’s alignment!

There’s nothing soft about culture. There are now tools to measure it, to ensure your culture is creating the dynamic organization you want. Our business is such a believer in a made-in-Canada tool called OGI – the Organizational Growth Indicator – that we have now become certified OGI practitioners. This newfound ability to measure organizations’ intangible assets has already won us new clients.

Disrupting your own company can be tricky. It’s a leap of faith, emotionally and financially. But it’s an investment in the future. By taking this risk, we’ve discovered our own formula for generating growth: running the business “one half-person over capacity”. This gives you the freedom to develop ideas and win new business.

Most entrepreneurs borrow money to invest in equipment or other tangible assets. But investing in human capital is one of the best ways to stay relevant.

How do you keep world-class people happy in your business? It comes back to culture: the values and attitudes that shape how you interact and kindle each other’s energies. We’ve built an inclusive culture of openness and sharing. We welcome ideas and risk-taking. When you genuinely respect people and help them succeed, they will support you and each other.

As a business owner, you’re creating a culture whether you intend to or not. Make sure the culture you’re encouraging is the one you need to achieve your highest goals.

Ken Tencer is chief executive officer of design-driven strategy rm Spyder Works Inc. and the co-author of two books on innovation, including the bestseller Cause a Disturbance. He holds the Institute of Corporate Directors certification (ICD.D). Follow him on Twitter at @90percentRule.

Organizational Growth Indicator (OGI*)* *Source: Connective Intelligence Inc.

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Igniting mid-market organizations with world-class thinking.

KenQuote_Image1For over 25 years, Spyder Works has developed design-driven strategies to help our clients move past their time consuming ‘front burner’ issues and develop clear, implementable steps to accelerate profitable growth.

Designdriven strategy integrates leading edge business thinking with customer- centric design thinking. This key differentiator helps organizations generate and translate powerful ideas into usable solutions that reach and impact their customers.

Organizations come to us at the point of change: a drive for sales, facing Increased competition, shifting brand or consumer perception, identifying and implementing new opportunities or unblocking cultural or operational bottlenecks, our team delivers powerful, holistic business thinking. We draw on first-hand experience at tier one consultancies and leading international corporations managing brands and divisions with full P&L responsibilities. We are creative and design thinkers, intrapreneurs, entrepreneurs and academics. Our team’s diversity and collective expertise and experience uniquely position us to provide a distinctive approach with both flexibility and speed.

At Spyder Works, we assist our clients in overcoming their most pressing strategic and tactical challenges in the areas of innovation and intrapreneurship, brand and customer experience, marketing and channel management, organization and operations, and learning, culture and leadership.

What needs to be true to drive your organization’s success?

Spyder Works approach and team provide creative and pragmatic thinking to enable you to build intrinsic value through improved skills, tools and processes that support critical decisionmaking.

Spyder Works. Small Steps. Epic Journey.

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Shining a Spotlight on Barry O’Grady.

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Our Vice-President, Marketing and Brand Experience, Barry O’Grady brings global, award-winning marketing expertise to Spyder Works’ clients.

Everyone knows that the toughest battles in marketing are fought in the grocery aisles. If you can win market share from Procter & Gamble and Colgate, you’ve got what it takes. Barry has done both while managing domestic market and global marketing responsibilities for brand powerhouses like Unilever and Mars Incorporated.

His goal is to help your company connect with its markets more deeply and personally, using the best strategies, storytelling and interactive marketing tools. “After running major brands for multinationals, I now help clients find the true potential in their businesses,” Barry says. “It’s all about helping you see an exciting, achievable future.”

Barry is a decorated marketing veteran, having fought bravely in the Cat Food Wars and won the Battle of the Soaps. The minstrels still sing of his work for Dove Beauty in Canada, which had long languished behind Ivory, the market leader. He says he’ll never forget the day Dove passed Ivory as Canada’s No. 1 soap brand. More importantly, his work on “Canada’s Classic Beauty” which valued the holistic beauty of real Canadian women set the stage for Dove’s ground-breaking “Real Beauty” campaign. Coming out of Canada and spreading around the world, that campaign not only sold more soap, it redefined how marketers engage with their target audiences. “Dove was 20 years ahead of its time,” says Barry. “It was exciting, fresh, different. We weren’t playing a conventional marketing role. We were empathizing with the reality of everyday women.”

Empathy drew Barry into consulting. He loves putting himself in his clients’ shoes, to understand their struggles and the needs of their customers. “I stand for input, dialogue, consensus, and high-trust relationships,” he says. “My clients sleep better at night knowing the consultants they’ve engaged are solving the real problem, not just putting words on paper.”

Barry’s rigorous approach to marketing and brand strategy is a catalyst for customer engagement. Or as Spyder Works CEO Ken Tencer puts it: “Barry transforms consumers into brand advocates in an age where the voice of the brand is increasingly coming from the mouths of its customers.”

“Spyder Works solves clients’ real problems in unique ways,” explains Barry. “I can start the change process by helping clients write a new strategy. The rest of the team can take it further, through design to production and leadership development. We’re operational and strategic.”

Barry’s dedication shone brightest the day he enrolled in a course on “Fundamentals of Digital Marketing” at Sheridan College. He was probably the oldest student in the class. He was by far the most experienced. But he was delighted when his prof, aware of
his background, con rmed that the role of digital media is to uniquely amplify all the principles of great marketing – establish connection, interaction and loyalty – that he learned from working with the world’s best consumer-product companies.

What else can we tell you about Barry? He’s into yoga, and mindfulness. And he’s happiest when the Toronto Blue Jays are winning.

But the wins he likes best are those of his clients. A few years ago, he was hired by an independent producer of creamy salad dressings to develop strategies for addressing consumers’ growing appetite for healthier foods. Soon after, the company was acquired by a major U.S. food brand. Barry was over the moon to learn this multinational had bought his client mainly for its strong position in the wellness segment, which would now be exported to the rest of its international divisions. Talk about impact!

Says Barry: “It blew my mind that I had created that much value for the client in eight months.”

We could tell you more: about the way Barry turned around the Whiskas cat-food brand in the United States for Mars, Inc.; how he launched six products for Green Giant; how he restructured the sales teams for M&Ms, Skittles and Snickers; and how he re-energized a whole division by implementing a “50 Day Challenge” that generated 300 new product ideas. But we think you should hear it from him.

Give Barry a call at <a href=”tel:9056088845″>905.608.8845</a> x 32, or email him at <a href=””></a>. Put all that success, experience and empathy to work for your brands.

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