How many times have we heard this hoary phrase? It can be especially interesting to hear when used as an one-note explanation for doing things a certain way. So, let’s take a step back.
When someone states their position/request because it is “best practice,” the first question that—should—come to mind is, “According to whom?”
It might be a best practice if one must use “best practices” in a sentence, by taking ownership of this non-concrete term: “According to what I [understand/have read/have been told/just made up/etc.], this is my take on best practices.”
Don’t attribute it to the ubiquitous “they” or an “industry standard.” Also, be prepared to share the source(s). By owning one’s take on best practices, a condescending and dismissive tone is bypassed.
Best practices in any situation is subjective and should remain flexible. Better yet, don’t get lazy and throw a term around that has no meaning or relevance, as there really is no such thing.
For more thought leadership on this in Forbes, read: Best Practices – Aren’twhere Mike Myatt @mikemyatt explains, “too much common management wisdom is not wise at all, but instead flawed knowledge based on a misunderstanding or misapplication of ‘best practices’ that often constitutes poor, incomplete or outright obsolete thinking.”
Around 11 p.m. one night, you realize there’s a key step your team needs to take on a current project. So, you dash off an email to the team members while you’re thinking about it.
No time like the present, right?
Wrong. As a productivity trainer specializing in attention management, I’ve seen over the past decade how after-hours emails speed up corporate cultures — and that, in turn, chips away at creativity, innovation, and true productivity.
If this is a common behavior for you, you’re missing the opportunity to get some distance from work — distance that’s critical to the fresh perspective you need as the leader. And, when the boss is working, the team feels like they should be working.
Think about the message you’d like to send. Do you intend for your staff to reply to you immediately? Or are you just sending the email because you’re thinking about it at the moment, and want to get it done before you forget? If it’s the former, you’re intentionally chaining your employees to the office 24/7. If it’s the latter, you’re unintentionally chaining your employees to the office 24/7. And this isn’t good for you, your employees, or your company culture. Being connected in off-hours during busy times is the sign of a high-performer. Never disconnecting is a sign of a workaholic. And there is a difference.
Regardless of your intent, I’ve found through my experience with hundreds of companies that there are two reasons late-night email habits spread from the boss to her team:
Ambition. If the boss is emailing late at night or on weekends, most employees think a late night response is required — or that they’ll impress you if they respond immediately. Even if just a couple of your employees share this belief, it could spread through your whole team. A casual mention in a meeting, “When we were emailing last night…” is all it takes. After all, everyone is looking for an edge in their career.
Attention. There are lots of people who have no intention of “working” when they aren’t at work. But they have poor attention management skills. They’re so accustomed to multitasking, and so used to constant distractions, that regardless of what else they’re doing, they find their fingers mindlessly tapping the icons on their smartphones that connect them to their emails, texts, and social media. Your late-night communication feeds that bad habit.
Being “always on” hurts results. When employees are constantly monitoring their email after work hours — whether this is due to a fear of missing something from you, or because they are addicted to their devices — they are missing out on essential down time that brains need. Experiments have shown that to deliver our best at work, we require downtime. Time away produces new ideas and fresh insights. But your employees can never disconnect when they’re always reaching for their devices to see if you’ve emailed. Creativity, inspiration, and motivation are your competitive advantage, but they are also depletable resources that need to be recharged. Incidentally, this is also true for you, so it’s worthwhile to examine your own communication habits.
Company leaders can help unhealthy assumptions about email and other communication from taking root.
Be clear about expectations for email and other communications, and set up policies to support a healthy culture that recognizes and values single-tasking, focus, and downtime. Vynamic, a successful healthcare consultancy in Philadelphia, created a policy it calls “zmail,” where email is discouraged between 10pm and 7am during the week, and all day on weekends. The policy doesn’t prevent work during these times, nor does it prohibit communication. If an after-hours message seems necessary, the staff is compelled to assess whether it’s important enough to require a phone call. If employees choose to work during off-hours, zmail discourages them from putting their habits onto others by sending emails during this time; they simply save the messages as drafts to be manually sent later, or they program their email client to automatically send the messages during work hours. This policy creates alignment between the stated belief that downtime is important, and the behaviors of the staff that contribute to the culture.
Also, take a hard look at the attitudes of leaders regarding an always-on work environment. The (often unconscious) belief that more work equals more success is difficult to overcome, but the truth is that this is neither beneficial nor sustainable. Long work hours actually decrease both productivity and engagement. I’ve seen that often, leaders believe theoretically in downtime, but they also want to keep company objectives moving forward — which seems like it requires constant communication.
A frantic environment that includes answering emails at all hours doesn’t make your staff more productive. It just makes them busy and distracted. You base your staff hiring decisions on their knowledge, experience, and unique talents, not how many tasks they can seemingly do at once, or how many emails they can answer in a day.
So, demonstrate and encourage an environment where employees can actually apply that brain power in a meaningful way:
Ditch the phrase “time management” for the more relevant “attention management,” and make training on this crucial skill part of your staff development plan.
Refrain from after-hours communication.
Model and discuss the benefits of presence, by putting away your devices when speaking with your staff, and implementing a “no device” policy in meetings to promote single-tasking and full engagement.
Discourage an always-on environment of distraction that inhibits creative flow by emphasizing the importance of focus, balancing an open floor plan with plenty of quiet spaces, and creating part-time remote work options for high concentration roles, tasks, and projects.
These behaviors will contribute to a higher quality output from yourself and your staff, and a more productive corporate culture.
A must-read. You will most likely recognize the first work environment described and perhaps enjoy a few suggestions for change. – pw
If there’s one place on earth where originality goes to die, I’d managed to find it. I was charged with unleashing innovation and change in the ultimate bastion of bureaucracy. It was a place where people accepted defaults without question, followed rules without explanation, and clung to traditions and technologies long after they’d become obsolete: the U.S. Navy.
But in a matter of months, the navy was exploding with originality—and not because of anything I’d done. It launched a major innovation task force and helped to form a Department of Defense outpost in Silicon Valley to get up to speed on cutting-edge technology. Surprisingly, these changes didn’t come from the top of the navy’s command-and-control structure. They were initiated at the bottom, by a group of junior officers in their twenties and thirties.
When I started digging for more details, multiple insiders pointed to a young aviator named Ben Kohlmann. Officers called him a troublemaker, rabble-rouser, disrupter, heretic, and radical. And in direct violation of the military ethos, these were terms of endearment.
Kohlmann lit the match by creating the navy’s first rapid-innovation cell—a network of original thinkers who would collaborate to question long-held assumptions and generate new ideas. To start assembling the group, he searched for black sheep: people with a history of nonconformity. One recruit had been fired from a nuclear submarine for disobeying a commander’s order. Another had flat-out refused to go to basic training. Others had yelled at senior flag officers and flouted chains of command by writing public blog posts to express their iconoclastic views. “They were lone wolves,” Kohlmann says. “Most of them had a track record of insubordination.”
Kohlmann realized, however, that to fuel and sustain innovation throughout the navy, he needed more than a few lone wolves. So while working as an instructor and director of flight operations, he set about building a culture of nonconformity. He talked to senior leaders about expanding his network and got their buy-in. He recruited sailors who had never shown a desire to challenge the status quo and exposed them to new ways of thinking. They visited centers of innovation excellence outside the military, from Google to the Rocky Mountain Institute. They devoured a monthly syllabus of readings on innovation and debated ideas during regular happy hours and robust online discussions. Soon they pioneered the use of 3-D printers on ships and a robotic fish for stealth underwater missions—and other rapid-innovation cells began springing up around the military. “Culture is king,” Kohlmann says. “When people discovered their voice, they became unstoppable.”
Empowering the rank and file to innovate is where most leaders fall short. Instead, they try to recruit brash entrepreneurial types to bring fresh ideas and energy into their organizations—and then leave it at that. It’s a wrongheaded approach, because it assumes that the best innovators are rare creatures with special gifts. Research shows that entrepreneurs who succeed over the long haul are actually more risk-averse than their peers. The hotshots burn bright for a while but tend to fizzle out. So relying on a few exceptional folks who fit a romanticized creative profile is a short-term move that underestimates everyone else. Most people are in fact quite capable of novel thinking and problem solving, if only their organizations would stop pounding them into conformity.
When everyone thinks in similar ways and sticks to dominant norms, businesses are doomed to stagnate. To fight that inertia and drive innovation and change effectively, leaders need sustained original thinking in their organizations. They get it by building a culture of nonconformity, as Kohlmann did in the navy. I’ve been studying this for the better part of a decade, and it turns out to be less difficult than I expected.
For starters, leaders must give employees opportunities and incentives to generate—and keep generating—new ideas, so that people across functions and roles get better at pushing past the obvious. However, it’s also critical to have the right people vetting those ideas. That part of the process should be much less democratic and more meritocratic, because some votes are simply more meaningful than others. And finally, to continue generating and selecting smart ideas over time, organizations need to strike a balance between cultural cohesion and creative dissent.
Letting a Thousand Flowers Bloom
People often believe that to do better work, they should do fewer things. Yet the evidence flies in the face of that assumption: Being prolific actually increases originality, because sheer volume improves your chances of finding novel solutions. In recent experiments by Northwestern University psychologists Brian Lucas and Loran Nordgren, the initial ideas people generated were the most conventional. Once they had thought of those, they were free to start dreaming up more-unusual possibilities. Their first 20 ideas were significantly less original than their next 15.
Across fields, volume begets quality. This is true for all kinds of creators and thinkers—from composers and painters to scientists and inventors. Even the most eminent innovators do their most original work when they’re also cranking out scores of less brilliant ideas. Consider Thomas Edison. In a five-year period, he came up with the lightbulb, the phonograph, and the carbon transmitter used in telephones—while also filing more than 100 patents for inventions that didn’t catch the world on fire, including a talking doll that ended up scaring children (and adults).
Of course, in organizations, the challenge lies in knowing when you’ve drummed up enough possibilities. How many ideas should you generate before deciding which ones to pursue? When I pose this question to executives, most say you’re really humming with around 20 ideas. But that answer is off the mark by an order of magnitude. There’s evidence that quality often doesn’t max out until more than 200 ideas are on the table.
Stanford professor Robert Sutton notes that the Pixar movie Cars was chosen from about 500 pitches, and at Skyline, the toy design studio that generates ideas for Fisher-Price and Mattel, employees submitted 4,000 new toy concepts in one year. That set was winnowed down to 230 to be drawn or prototyped, and just 12 were finally developed. The more darts you throw, the better your odds of hitting a bull’s-eye.
Though it makes perfect sense, many managers fail to embrace this principle, fearing that time spent conjuring lots of ideas will prevent employees from being focused and efficient. The good news is that there are ways to help employees generate quantity and variety without sacrificing day-to-day productivity or causing burnout.
Think like the enemy. Research suggests that organizations often get stuck in a rut because they’re playing defense, trying to stave off the competition. To encourage people to think differently and generate more ideas, put them on offense.
That’s what Lisa Bodell of futurethink did when Merck CEO Ken Frazier hired her to help shake up the status quo. Bodell divided Merck’s executives into groups and asked them to come up with ways to put the company out of business. Instead of being cautious and sticking close to established competencies, the executives started considering bold new directions in strategy and product development that competitors could conceivably take. Energy in the room soared as they explored the possibilities. The offensive mindset, Carnegie Mellon professor Anita Woolley observes, focuses attention on “pursuing opportunities…whereas defenders are more focused on maintaining their market share.” That mental shift allowed the Merck executives to imagine competitive threats that didn’t yet exist. The result was a fresh set of opportunities for innovation.
According to decades of research, you get more and better ideas if people are working alone in separate rooms than if they’re brainstorming in a group. When people generate ideas together, many of the best ones never get shared. Some members dominate the conversation, others hold back to avoid looking foolish, and the whole group tends to conform to the majority’s taste.
Evidence shows that these problems can be managed through “brainwriting.” All that’s required is asking individuals to think up ideas on their own before the group evaluates them, to get all the possibilities on the table. For instance, at the eyewear retailer Warby Parker, named the world’s most innovative company by Fast Company in 2015, employees spend a few minutes a week writing down innovation ideas for colleagues to read and comment on. The company also maintains a Google doc where employees can submit requests for new technology to be built, which yields about 400 new ideas in a typical quarter. One major innovation was a revamped retail point of sale, which grew out of an app that allowed customers to bookmark their favorite frames in the store and receive an e-mail about them later.
Since employees often withhold their most unusual suggestions in group settings, another strategy for seeking ideas is to schedule rapid one-on-one idea meetings. When Anita Krohn Traaseth became managing director of Hewlett-Packard Norway, she launched a “speed-date the boss” initiative. She invited every employee to meet with her for five minutes and answer these questions: Who are you and what do you do at HP? Where do you think we should change, and what should we keep focusing on? And what do you want to contribute beyond fulfilling your job responsibilities? She made it clear that she expected people to bring big ideas, and they didn’t want to waste their five minutes with a senior leader—it was their chance to show that they could innovate. More than 170 speed dates later, so many good ideas had been generated that other HP leaders implemented the process in Austria and Switzerland.
Bring back the suggestion box.
It’s a practice that dates back to the early 1700s, when a Japanese shogun put a box at the entrance to his castle. He rewarded good ideas—but punished criticisms with decapitation. Today suggestion boxes are often ridiculed. “I smell a creative idea being formed somewhere in the building,” the boss thinks in one Dilbert cartoon. “I must find it and crush it.” He sets up a suggestion box, and Dilbert is intrigued until a colleague warns him: “It’s a trap!!”
But the evidence points to a different conclusion: Suggestion boxes can be quite useful, precisely because they provide a large number of ideas. In one study, psychologist Michael Frese and his colleagues visited a Dutch steel company (now part of Tata Steel) that had been using a suggestion program for 70 years. The company had 11,000 employees and collected between 7,000 and 12,000 suggestions a year. A typical employee would make six or seven suggestions annually and see three or four adopted. One prolific innovator submitted 75 ideas and had 30 adopted. In many companies, those ideas would have been missed altogether. For the Dutch steelmaker, however, the suggestion box regularly led to improvements—saving more than $750,000 in one year alone.
The major benefit of suggestion boxes is that they multiply and diversify the ideas on the horizon, opening up new avenues for innovation. The biggest hurdle is that they create a larger haystack of ideas, making it more difficult to find the needle. You need a system for culling contributions—and rewarding and pursuing the best ones—so that people don’t feel their suggestions are falling on deaf ears.
Developing a Nose for Good Ideas
Generating lots of alternatives is important, but so is listening to the right opinions and solutions. How can leaders avoid pursuing bad ideas and rejecting good ones?
Lean on proven evaluators.
Although many leaders use a democratic process to select ideas, not every vote is equally valuable. Bowing to the majority’s will is not the best policy; a select minority might have a better sense of which ideas have the greatest potential. To figure out whose votes should be amplified, pay attention to employees’ track records in evaluation.
At the hedge fund Bridgewater, employees’ opinions are weighted by a believability score, which reflects the quality of their past decisions in that domain. In the U.S. intelligence community, analysts demonstrate their credibility by forecasting major political and economic events. In studies by psychologist Philip Tetlock, forecasters are rated on accuracy (did they make the right bets?) and calibration (did they get the probabilities right?). Once the best of these prognosticators are identified, their judgments can be given greater influence than those of their peers.
So, in a company, who’s likely to have the strongest track record? Not managers—it’s too easy for them to stick to existing prototypes. And not the innovators themselves. Intoxicated by their own “eureka” moments, they tend to be overconfident about their odds of success. They may try to compensate for that by researching customer preferences, but they’ll still be susceptible to confirmation bias (looking for information that supports their view and rejecting the rest). Even creative geniuses have trouble predicting with any accuracy when they’ve come up with a winner.
A Syllabus for Innovators
When aviator Ben Kohlmann set out to build a culture of nonconformity in the U.S. Navy, he found inspiration in many sources. Here’s a sampling of the items he recommends to people who want to think more creatively, along with his comments on how they’ve influenced his own development.
A Syllabus for Innovators
When aviator Ben Kohlmann set out to build a culture of nonconformity in the U.S. Navy, he found inspiration in many sources. Here’s a sampling of the items he recommends to people who want to think more creatively, along with his comments on how they’ve influenced his own development.
“Lead Like the Great Conductors”
TED talk by Itay Talgam
Much can be learned from professions we have no understanding of. People are people—and recognizing the commonalities is useful.
by Orson Scott Card
This novel illustrates how tactical and strategic teams can be adaptable—and how genius can emerge at a young age. It’s especially apropos reading in the military, where we promote on seniority and not merit.
by Frank Herbert
A compelling story about insurgency and taking on established powers, Dune explores the ambiguous nature of messianic saviors.
Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error
by Kathryn Schulz
We’re wrong a lot, and yet we almost never admit it. Schulz helped me critically evaluate my own biases and better understand how people view and portray themselves.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things
by Ben Horowitz
Horowitz doesn’t merely talk about how to lead; he’s actually lived it. And who doesn’t love a guy who starts his chapters with rap lyrics?
The (Mis)behavior of Markets
by Benoit Mandelbrot
Mandelbrot is the father of fractal theory, and his insight into how that plays into the stock market transformed my understanding of luck’s role in managerial successes and failures.
Letters to a Young Contrarian
by Christopher Hitchens
I’m a person of faith, but I appreciate the way Hitchens incisively questions everything, even faith. I’ve used his methods many a time to develop contrarian positions and win debates.
Each episode is pure fun—but yields lots of learning at the same time.
Research suggests that fellow innovators are the best evaluators of original ideas. They’re impartial, because they’re not judging their own ideas, and they’re more willing than managers to give radical possibilities a chance. For example, Stanford professor Justin Berg found that circus performers who evaluated videos of their peers’ new acts were about twice as accurate as managers in predicting popularity with audiences.
In my experience, the folks who have no doubts about their abilities are usually the ones that absolutely should. Enjoy this article from NYT.
On paper, your investments in stocks, real estate or even cash may look like your greatest assets. While all those things are superimportant, you have something else that’s even more valuable. It’s the investment called you.
Finding ways to increase your value while doing the things you love may be the most important thing you do. Maybe you pursue more training to qualify for a raise. Maybe you find a way to sell the photography you did as a hobby. Maybe you find a way to turn your freelance writing into full-time work.
They all involve doing something new for you, but when you head down this path, you are probably going to run into this thing, this fear that you’re bumping up against the limits of your ability. Then, the voice inside your head may start saying things like:
■ “Who gave you permission to do that?”
■ “Do you have a license to be an artist?”
■ “Who said you could draw on cardstock with a Sharpie in Park City, Utah, and send those sketches to The New York Times?”
I think you get the idea. It’s at the moment when you’re most vulnerable that all your doubts come crashing in around you. When I first heard that voice in my own head, I didn’t know what to make of it. The fear was paralyzing. Every time I sent a sketch or something else into the world, I worried the world would say, “You’re a fraud.”
During a session with a business coach, I shared my fear. I was shocked when she told me this thing had a name. As you’ve tried new things or done anything outside of your comfort zone, you’ve probably felt that fear, too. The first step to dealing with this fear is knowing what to call it.
Two American psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, gave it a name in 1978: the impostor syndrome. They described it as a feeling of “phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” While these people “are highly motivated to achieve,” they also “live in fear of being ‘found out’ or exposed as frauds.” Sound familiar?
All About the Impostor Syndrome
Listen to the Sketch Guy’s financial advice.
Once we know what to call this fear, the second step that I’ve found really valuable is knowing we’re not alone. Once I learned this thing had a name, I was curious to learn who else suffered from it. One of my favorite discoveries involved the amazing American author and poet Maya Angelou. She shared that, “I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’”
Think about that for a minute. Despite winning three Grammys and being nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award, this huge talent still questioned her success.
I’m also a big fan of the marketing expert Seth Godin, and even after publishing a dozen best sellers, he wrote in “The Icarus Deception” that he still feels like a fraud. I’ve heard that American presidents can feel this thing, too. The first time they find themselves alone in the Oval Office, they think to themselves, “I hope nobody finds out I’m in here.”
So now that we know its name and that other people deal with it too, our third step is to understand why we feel this way. I think part of the impostor syndrome comes from a natural sense of humility about our work. That’s healthy, but it can easily cross the line into paralyzing fear. When we have a skill or talent that has come naturally we tend to discount its value.
Why is that? Well, we often hesitate to believe that what’s natural, maybe even easy for us, can offer any value to the world. In fact, the very act of being really good at something can lead us to discount its value. But after spending a lot of time fine-tuning our ability, isn’t it sort of the point for our skill to look and feel natural?
One day, Buddha was teaching a large group, and Mara was moving around the edges, looking for a way into the group. I envision Mara rushing frantically back and forth in the bushes and trees, making plans to wreak havoc. One of Buddha’s attendants saw Mara, ran to Buddha and warned him of Mara’s presence. Hearing his attendant’s frantic warning, the Buddha simply replied, “Oh good, invite her in for tea.”
This story captures beautifully how we should respond to the impostor syndrome. We know what the feeling is called. We know others suffer from it. We know a little bit about why we feel this way. And we now know how to handle it: Invite it in and remind ourselves why it’s here and what it means.
For me, even after six years of sharing these simple sketches with the world and speaking all over the world, you think I’d be used to it. In fact, the impostor syndrome has not gone away, but I’ve learned to think of it as a friend. So now when I start to hear that voice in my head, I take a deep breath, pause for a minute, put a smile on my face and say, “Welcome back old friend. I’m glad you’re here. Now, let’s get to work.”
At some point during the launch of your startup, it’s likely that a potential investor will ask you about your company’s mission statement. Many business management experts would argue that this should be your company’s cornerstone, inspiring and informing your employees in the years ahead. I can’t agree. The Virgin Group does have a mission statement — one that is brief and to the point. In general, there is too much importance being placed on such statements, but it is interesting to see how they reflect common missteps in business.
Most mission statements are full of blah truisms and are anything but inspirational. A company’s employees don’t really need to be told that “The mission of XYZ Widgets is to make the best widgets in the world while providing excellent service.” They must think, “As opposed to what? Making the worst widgets and offering the lousiest service?” Such statements show that management lacks imagination, and perhaps in some cases, direction.
At the opposite end of the scale is the statement that fails through flowery waffling. An example: “Yahoo powers and delights our communities of users, advertisers and publishers – all of us united in creating indispensable experiences, and fueled by trust.” That sounds wonderful, but what does it mean? Whoever wrote it should try listening to the company’s CEO, Marissa Mayer, who said in a recent speech, “Yahoo is about making the world’s daily habits inspiring and entertaining.” It’s not perfect, but it would be a step in the right direction.
Some companies are not actually able to carry out their mission. The reasons can range from a disruption in the markets to a merger or acquisition, and then there are cases like Enron’s: Before the giant energy company went bankrupt in 2001, ruining the lives of tens of thousands of employees and investors, its vision and values statement was “Respect, integrity, communication and excellence.” Say no more!
While some mission statements consist of one vague statement, others are too long, which may reflect management’s lack of understanding of what a company really does. The Warwickshire Police recently produced a new mission statement; to the police chief’s dismay, the resulting 1,200-word screed gained the attention of the media and was nominated for the Golden Bull award “for excellence in gobbledygook” from the Plain English Campaign, a group that helps organizations to provide clear communications. Not only was the rambling epistle filled with buzzwords and jargon, but the word “crime” was not mentioned once.
Still other companies don’t know what differentiates them from their competition. The mission statement for the pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers reads, “To discover, develop and deliver innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases.” Well, you can’t argue with that, but surely this can be said of every drug company on the planet. Why would a person choose to buy Bristol-Myers’ products or invest in its stock, rather than its competitors’?
So that’s what not to do. If you are in a situation where you must write a mission statement, I think you should try for something closer to a heraldic motto than a speech. They were often simple because they had to fit across the bottom of a coat of arms, and they were long-lasting because they reflected a group’s deeper values.
When I was a boy, I was fascinated by such mottoes. One of my childhood heroes was the pilot Douglas Bader, who lost both his legs in a crash early in his career, but went on to fly fighter planes for the Royal Air Force during WWII. After seeing the movie “Reach for the Sky,” which told his heroic story, I remember asking my father about the RAF motto, “Per ardua ad astra.” When he told me that it meant, “Through adversity to the stars,” I thought the idea of battling one’s way to the stars at all costs was the most inspiring thing I’d ever heard. (It’s pretty similar to the “Toy Story” character Buzz Lightyear’s motto, “To infinity and beyond,” which some kids today think is pretty cool – especially some of my friends on the Virgin Galactic crew.)
A few years later, at Stowe School, I was taught the school’s motto, “Persto et praesto,” which means “I stand firm and I stand first.” This motto caused a lot of giggling among our group of adolescent schoolboys, but it was nevertheless excellent for guiding us forward into adult life. Brevity is certainly key, so try using Twitter’s 140-character template when you’re drafting your inspirational message. You need to explain your company’s purpose and outline expectations for internal and external clients alike. Make it unique to your company, make it memorable, keep it real and, just for fun, imagine it on the bottom of a coat of arms.
If we had to put ours on a coat of arms, Virgin’s would probably say something like, “Ipsum sine timore, consector,” which very loosely translated from the Latin means, “Screw it, let’s do it!”