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A Slippery Slope
Authentic Innovation
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Featured / new books and "classics" to help you "transform business as usual into business at its best."

Twitter Highlights
I send 15-20 tweets per week with links to useful links and research. Here are a few of my latest, including links:

Good, short reminder about the inherent risks of strategic decisions -Better Ways of Thinking About Risks

Great advice for leaders: shared vision, modeling and establishing "No-Spin Zone" -

Interesting research on erosion of integrity deeper in organizations -

"Even truth needs to be clad in new garments if it is to appeal to a new age." G.C. Lichtenberg Which of your "truths" need new garments?

Wisdom - or the art of knowing which hills to die on via @SBLeaders See my comment.

Rebranding? Learn from Myanmar: BBC News - Burma start repairing its tattered image -

GM CEO Akerson as "Ghostbuster" via @WSJ Know your organization's "story;" are there any "ghosts" to bust?

Immigrant Children Lag Behind, Posing Risk for workforce and economy - via @WSJ Support Adult Basic Education!

70% believe Wall Street employees would break the law for financial gain. See survey.

'Don't want to miss out on this one! Ponzify: Silicon Valley's next hot IPO |

How stree interacts with social order: Jonah Lehrer on It's Good To Be The Top Banana via @WSJ

Are you this dedicated to your purpose? The Scientific Embrace of Suffering via @WSJ

How can we adapt this for disgraced CEOs? For Disgraced Athletes the Wrath of Zeus via @WSJ

"Critics can say horrible things. It only hurts when I agree with them." Jon Cryer, actor

@HarvardBiz What Captures Your Attention Controls Your Life - Harvard Business Review:

A comprehensive 66 point innovation checklist: Also recommend "Imagine:"

The World's 100 Most Reputable Companies - Forbes  
Congratulations 3M and General Mills!

Good pointers here: 6 Things Comedians Can Teach You About Public Speaking via@OpenForum

Any institution's integrity including Harvard's, is reflected by sources and uses of funds. -

Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized, the surer one is about right and wrong. (H.L. Mencken)

Queen Elizabeth: "I have to be seen to be believed." (Don't we all?")

For sure - self-awareness is fundamental to leadership - Charlotte Beers on the importance of self-assessment -

Good points here about autentic communication - 5 ways great bosses win battles against their evil twins | Poynter:

Employee engageent improves brand value according to Performance Improvement Council -

"We must believe that it is the darkest before the dawn of a beautiful new world. We will see it when we believe it." - Saul Alinsky

Great McKinsey resources for achieving the promise of women leadership -

Brainstorming how-tos, but remember its limitations - Recommend "Imagine:"

@Cliconomics - Yes, "all great changes are preceded by chaos;" I've also witnessed great chaos preceded by big changes!

'Have ADD, Asberger's or dyslexia? You may be a natural entrepreneur! Schumpeter: In praise of misfits | The Economist

"Never give in, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, except to convictions of honour and good sense." W.Churchill

RT @HarvardBiz: Can We All Just Stop Innovating? - HBR: More on authentic innovation at

Recommend: 5 Elements Of Creative Execution via@FastCompany See my comment

WalMart Chairman: "Integrity is our business." -
via @reuters Let's hope they walk the talk.

Highly recommend John Taft's new book "Stewardship" - Book info and Amazon link at

Good example of how consistency is critical for communication integrity: Why Leaders Should Scowl - via @CBSNews

Great excerpts from 2012 commencement speeches -

'Ever have "bad brain days?" Helpful advice here for writers and others -

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them - via @FortuneMagazine
If you missed it, below is a copy of my last blog: A Slippery Slope. Since some may not have seen May's article, Authentic Innovation, its introduction follows; you can access the entire article by clicking the link at the end.  Be sure to enter the "Who Said This?" contest at the bottom of this newsletter to win an autographed copy of Navigating Integrity - Transforming Business As Usual Into Business At Its Best.
A Slippery Slope

I had the pleasure of lunch recently with the former VP of Sales for a $16 million technology company, published author and speaker. Mark Faris freely shares another distinguishing credential: he is a convicted Mark Faris headfelon for mail / wire fraud and money laundering who did eleven months of hard time away from home and family.  He has one more year of supervised release by the U.S. Probation Office and is still paying monthly restitution.  Mark's experience was clearly a significant defining moment of his life and career; his passionate purpose today is transforming individuals and organizations to be more honest, accountable and ethical by communicating the importance of morals, principles, and values.  I was anxious to talk with him about his journey and perspective on business ethics.


Here are some take-aways from my conversation with Mark:

  • Too many of us grow up and go to work with a sense of entitlement: entitlement to a big job, big house, big cars and safety nets - that we're somehow owed, or deserve a comfortable, luxurious lifestyle.  For those who attain that, some are desperate and will do anything to keep it so.
  • For many leaders, it's about them: "How can I get ahead / win / succeed / look good?  How can I get more recognition, pay and perks?  They've lost track of Robert Greenleaf's admonition that "leaders are servant first" - to teach, guide and develop people so they can accomplish a worthwhile purpose together.
  • Organizations, too, lose sight of their central purpose of meeting legitimate needs and serving customers first.  I met with Mark shortly after hearing John Taft, CEO of RBC Wealth Management U.S., and reading his book "Stewardship."  A central theme of his book is that the Lehman Bothers, Wachovias and Goldman Sachs of the investment world dig themselves holes that we fall into precisely because they've lost sight of their central purpose as agents of customers and stewards of their wealth.
  • Organizations and their leaders are keeping the wrong score cards, or they're paying too much attention to scorecards versus playing the "game" as it's supposed to be played.  On the milder side, organizations lose out creating real sustainable value by succumbing to "shortermitis" propagated by Wall Street and analysts.  On the more serious side, pressure to hit the numbers, shore up stock price and maximize bonuses lead to legal shortcuts or outright fraud.
  • Fundamentally, it's about morals, values and principles.  Whether by family, school, faith, community or other means, internalizing a set of values and principles rooted by fairness, service, civility and honesty that becomes our moral compass is essential.  It's not enough to just have a set of values or principles.  Some values are better than others; after all, even pirates and murderous gangs have codes that they live and die by.  It's not enough to merely have virtuous values or stateValues sign them out loud. All of the organizations in the news for the wrong reasons the last few years had stated values that sounded right; their lobbies were literally paved and papered with good intentions.  People watch our feet more than they listen to our speech; they learn from what senior leaders do, not what they say.  Behavior is also shaped more by things like recognition and pay, who gets hired or promoted and what training is offered (or not) versus stated values in employee handbooks.

Mark grew up with a strong set of values, but acknowledged that competitive pressures combined with factors above nudged him over the line.  From there things snowballed on a slippery slope to his and his company's demise.  When I asked him what would have made a difference preventing unethical and illegal practices, he said that defining company values clearly on the front end and paying much more attention to them would have had a huge positive impact.


We both agree with John Taft that our very future depends on the willingness and ability of business leaders to act with integrity as responsible stewards. Unfortunately we also both agree that as much talk as there is about integrity, principled leadership and stewardship, matters don't seem to be improving and in fact are getting worse. We are confident that there are likely thousands of leaders and hundreds of organizations just in the U.S. today that find themselves on the slippery slope that Mark was on; our entire economy in fact seems to be on a slippery slope.


What to do?  Here are some suggestions:

  • If you haven't already, as a leader and as an organization articulate your core values, principles, standards and code.  Be certain that everyone knows what they are and what they mean.
  • Find many ways to remind organization members what your core values and expectations around those core values are - meetings, reports, training and other venues.
  • Make sure that recognition and pay, hiring and promotion, performance appraisal, training and measurement send signals that are consistent with your stated values.
  • Cultivate "truth-telling" cultures and listen.  Before organizations find themselves in trouble ethically there are always unmined information sources and flags that get missed.  Consider surveys, including inTEgro's own Organizational Integrity Survey, as supplemental resources for determining where there may be disconnects between intentions and reality.
  • Know that there will be dilemmas - where values conflict, there are no pat answers or where it's really hard to do the right thing.  Seek help and exercise discernment choosing the best course of action; provide coaching and counsel to others who face dilemmas.
  • Examine your own and senior leaders' motivations, behavior and communication. What messages do they send; are they consistent with stated values?  Are you sure?

Mark Faris and I also talked about how the practices that keep leaders out of jail and their organizations out of ethical hot water are virtually the same that help assure organizational effectiveness and employee engagement.  There is a growing body of evidence that customers and employees now consider an organization's reputation and trustworthiness as or more important in their purchasing and employment decisions as they do other factors.


For more ideas about how to assure that integrity and stewardship serve as foundations for sound leadership and organizational culture, we recommend Navigating Integrity - Transforming Business As Usual Into Business At Its Best, and Stewardship - Lessons Learned from the Lost Culture of Wall Street, both on the Featured Books page of inTEgro's web site. You can find Mark Faris' inspirational autobiography The Wishing Well in inTEgro's Book Store by clicking "More Books," and learn more about Mark and his work at 


Are you clear about your values, principles and standards - and what lines you will not cross?  Is your organization?


Are you, or might your organization be, on a "slippery slope?"  How will you regain your footing?


              Integrity in boulder 


"If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don't have integrity, nothing else matters."

Alan Simpson


"Men, like rivers become crooked by following the line of least resistance."

                                        Edvard Raasted


"Once we see that living up to our standards appear to be leading us toward self-destruction, the time has come to question our standards."

Nathaniel Brandon



Authentic Innovation

Is anyone getting tired hearing about "innovation?" A recent WSJ article ("You Call That Innovation?" - May 23, WSJ Marketplace) suggested that might be the case.  Among other signs, it referenced how a search of Securities and Exchange filings yielded 33,528 mentions of "innovation" in some form - a 64% increase over five years ago. I used "double buzzwords" for this title intentionally; unfortunately "authentic" and its variations are also getting worn out. Whether we're talking about innovation, authenticity, quality, process improvement or other hot topics, a problem is that when we tire of the words we often "throw the baby out with the bath water," then latch on to the next big deal.  (Hey, I still think that "MBO," or "management by objectives" is a good idea!)


It's refreshing then, as we begin to tire or burn out on a concept, when someone or something comes along to fire us up again, remind us why it's important and renews our thinking about it.  That was my reaction to a great new book: "Imagine - How Creativity Works," by Jonah Lehrer.  I don't often come right out and say "buy this book," but seriously, go out and buy this book!  Lola Fredrickson of Fredrickson Communications, a creative force in its own right, introduced me to it.  (Thanks Lola!)  I was impressed by Lehrer's command of how creativity actually works, copious references to neuro and social science research, fascinating examples ranging from Bob Dylan and Yo Yo Ma to Apple and 3M, and a very engaging writing style.


Here are just a few of my take-aways from "Imagine:"

  • Creativity is not one thing, but distinct brain processes that modern neuroscience technology can now monitor. Loosely, it typically begins with attempts to solve problems analytically, dominated by our left-brain hemisphere.  Then there's a stumped, or frustrating, stage when the brain is forced to make all kinds of new connections in search of a solution.  If we're lucky as our brain "rummages through the obscure file cabinets of its right hemisphere," it makes a right connection.  Neuroscientists have observed that this "aha moment" is accompanied by high electrical activity in a small fold of tissue in our brain's right hemisphere.
  • The three distinct brain functions are important because they play different roles in the creative process and can be leveraged in different ways.  Attention (and in some cases obsession) comes into play initially, as the mind gathers in any and all information and senses surrounding a focal point.  The "stumped" and frustrating stage is necessary since that is what literally fires our

  Read more. 

Win A Free Book! Navigating Integrity cover
Enter the "WHO SAID THIS?" contest on our blog to win a free autographed copy of Navigating Integriity - Transforming Business As Usual Into Business At Its Best

"In this new book, Al Watts does a masterful job articulating how to live with integrity in our organization, on your team and in your life. A highly practical guide for leveraging the power of integrity."
(Kevin Cashman, Senior Partner Korn Ferrry)

Contact inTEgro to explore how we can be of service for strategic planning, senior team and board development or facilitating critical meetings. Click "Services" on our home  page to learn more, including inTEgro's array of professional organization, team and leader surveys.

All the best,
Al Watts
inTEgro, Inc.
ph: (612) 827-2363