Thinking for a change part one – playing with the rules

  • thinking for a changeChange is the only constant.
  • Innovate or die.
  • Fortune favours the bold.

No doubt you’ve heard all of these before. They’re noble sentiments, but ultimately a bit useless when you find yourself confronted with a very real, very turbulent, and very unpredictable 300ft giant tsunami of change.

Think about a time when you’ve been faced with change as scary as that. Perhaps you’re in this position right now. Are you feeling bold, or burnt-out? Inventive, or introverted? Ready for change, or desperately clinging to whatever constant you can find in the chaos?

Shuffling deck chairs on the titanic?

When we’re faced with monumental change, we know we need to adapt to survive, but our survival instinct drives us to do just the opposite – to seek stability and safety. A lot of this is unconscious. And so we find ourselves in workshops, and meetings, and setting up innovation think tanks with the intention of making change, only to find the process sabotaged by the group’s collective fear.

You’re shuffling the deck chairs on the titanic. It’s not fun.

You are already a champion changemaker

You might not remember it happening, but the fact is we’ve all lived through a stage where we faced unbelievable change and survived, thrived even. In your first three years of life you grew 1,000 trillion new brain connections and transformed yourself from a gurgling newborn bundle into a walking, talking, socialising, and learning mini-human.

How did you do this? Through play and experimentation.

In this series I’m going to share with you my favourite thinking techniques, and invite you to play with them as a way to cure ‘innovation block’. When you’re faced with a 300ft tsunami of change, taking a mental break to just play with possibilities is just the thing to unlock a solution. At worst, you’ll feel much better after taking a little time out to take things less seriously.

Playing with the Rules

Rules are what keep life simple enough for ordinary humans to manage. The explicit rules are easy enough to identify, but it’s the unwritten rules and assumptions that can really limit our ability to find breakthrough solutions to tough problems.

Try this 15-minute game:

  1. Write down a list of all the rules and assumptions that apply to your problem. Don’t edit or debate, you’re aiming to get a nice long list in under 5 minutes. If some of them surprise you, or seem stupidly obvious, you’re doing a good job.
  2. Pick a rule from the list at random and break it, ideally to an extreme.
    Ask yourself, what if this wasn’t true? For example, if your rule is “we can’t spend more than $1,000”. The alternatives might be “we have unlimited funds” or “we have no money”.
  3. What possibilities exist in this new reality you’ve created?

I learned this technique from the wonderful Dr Amantha Imber and the team at Inventium. Head over to Inventium’s blog for four more ways to get inspired in under 5 minutes.

Marketing: the business of behaviour change

The business of marketing is the business of change. Everyday our marketing consultants help purpose-driven organisations to use the tools of business and communication to influence behaviour. Whether that’s spreading awareness of a cause, or positioning a service to appeal to those most in need…what’s really happening is a change in thoughts, feelings and action. A mind-shift. New thinking!

For support finding a way through change for your brand and the people you serve, get in touch with our marketing team at

Meg Drechsler

Meg Drechsler is CBB’s Senior Marketing Consultant.  If you have any queries about measuring your  marketing she can be contacted via email or by calling Phone: 1300 763 505

What can established organisations learn from social entrepreneurs?

social entrepreneursIn recent months we’ve been engaging with a range of social entrepreneurs and sharing some of the learning from their experience in our Foreword articles. This month we will distil some of the themes that have come through from an organisational perspective, and consider how they can be deployed in established organisations. Next month we’ll look at some of the characteristics and behaviours of innovative leaders.

  1. Be prepared to pivot:

    Back in the old days when change happened slowly, we’d develop a three to five year strategy and stick to it, often within a very hierarchical ‘command and control’ organisational structure. Innovative organisations don’t work like that. They are much more agile. Whilst they may start with an idea, they are prepared to shift focus in response to the external environment and feedback from their customers. The inspiration for Sydney’s Bread and Butter Project started with the business model. Whilst the model stayed true to the original intention, founder Paul Allam looked at providing training and employment opportunities for a variety of different communities before he settled on working with refugees and asylum seekers. At KiK, young entrepreneurs changed the business name and drove the coffee shop business in Adelaide before adding new ventures in chocolates, catering and cleaning.

The lesson: stay alert to the external context. You don’t have to shift the focus of the entire organisation, but, be open to trying new ideas, and be prepared to stop doing things that no longer serve your customers’ needs. 

  1. Keep evolving:

    Just because something’s working doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to improve it. The old mantra of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ just doesn’t apply here. Bread and Butter Project in Sydney has made a success of training refugees and asylum seekers as bakers, with many moving on to jobs in open employment, but founder Paul Allam says “we’re still working on the model of how best to support our trainees”. Hutt St Centre has been serving South Australia’s homeless people since 1954, and is constantly looking for better ways to meet – and fund – community needs, launching Australia’s first social investment bond focused on homelessness in 2017.

The lesson: rather than being complacent, have a continuous improvement mindset. How can we do this better? Can we make a small change that will make a positive difference to customer experience?

  1. Loosen the reins:

    trying to keep absolute control over everything means that you will miss other opportunities, particularly the valuable contributions of others. Although Louise Nobes was the founder, and is still very much the driving force behind KiK, it’s the young people that are developing the new business ideas. Having established Bread and Butter Project, Paul Allam has stepped back from day to day operations as the board and professional staff manage the social enterprise. 

The lesson: delegate! Understand the capabilities of your board, staff, volunteers and partners and create opportunities for them to contribute in a meaningful way. Understand what’s really important to the organisation and manage and measure that, rather than trying to exercise absolute control over absolutely everything.

  1. Keep partner engagement fresh:

    successful social entrepreneurs are levering the skills and resources available to them through their external networks – for funding, in kind contributions, intelligence, partnership initiatives and influence. Stakeholder and partner relationships are another area for ongoing development and review. Bread and Butter Project has been measuring its social impact through a social return on investment (SROI) program that Paul Allam describes as ‘gifted’ by the Centre for Social Impact. SROI is an intensive model, so once the current program is complete, Bread and Butter Project will review whether SROI is the right model for the longer term.

The lesson: don’t get stuck in a rut with your partners. Consider what else your partners might contribute to your organisation as your relationship evolves, or whether it’s time to move on.

As established organisations, we often feel a need to protect our legacy. Whilst that’s a laudable aim, it risks creating an insular culture that sticks with old and familiar services, methodologies and relationships. Social entrepreneurs are demonstrating a more flexible approach of continuously reviewing, and iterating, in response to the external context and internal stimuli.


Jane Arnott
General Manager, Consulting and Business Services
Phone: 1300 284 364

Talent Management Series – Part one

Do you have a lack of talent? It could be a reflection of the leadership culture

Often in my consulting work I am asked to help ‘fix’ the culture of a team, unit and in some instances, a whole organisation. So as I listen to leaders describing the unproductive behaviours, workforce issues and customer problems, I ask questions that help to uncover why these issues have arisen in the first place. The answers can be challenging as the cause can usually be drawn back to a lack of robust HR systems/practices combined with inconsistent leadership across the structure. While this process is confronting, it is not a blame placing exercise. Following a process is about being disciplined in identifying the root cause of organisational issues to ensure we have both single and double loop learning experiences and outcomes. Employing short term fixes that alleviate the immediate pressure is paramount and suits the pragmatic executive leaders that are in a hurry for a short term win. It is when these wins are coupled with longer term initiatives that we see true positive outcomes for the organisation as a whole.

So what are some of the root causes of failing to retain or develop talent?

I came across this list from Seek and my experiences in all three sectors can validate the following top seven reasons:

  1. No motivation
  2. Not challenging enough
  3. No development
  4. No trust
  5. No recognition
  6. Mismanagement
  7. No flexibility or fun

Notice anything?  There is not one mention of workforce supply and demand, nor any focus on negative employee behaviour. They are all focussed on leadership approaches and lack of HR development practices. So when you hear yourself thinking or even saying out loud – our employees ‘are just not the right people’, ‘don’t have the right skills’, ‘don’t have the capability’, ‘are resistant to change’, ‘complacent’, ‘don’t understand the commercial environment’ etc. etc., you may need to stop and reflect on the underlying attitudes that support these statements. Harsh?  Yes! Helpful? Not really!

So what are the robust People & Culture practices that will attract, recruit, develop and retain talent in our sector? Talent Management is not a stand-alone activity that can be ‘done’ to people.  It is the compounding effect of people practices, leadership and thoughtful execution.

Talent Management

Overall, Talent Management is having

robust P & C structures, practices and initiatives that when combined, they add value to the employee journey while enhancing organisational brand.

There is a sweet spot in the middle where both employee and employer needs are met.  However, there is one pivot point –  all roads lead back to the prevailing leadership culture and practices and the success or otherwise of these efforts will be out there for all to see.


If you are interested to find out more, please contact our Senior HR Consultant,
Andrea Collett on 0422 437 153 or

Top 5 marketing insights from NDIS rollout

Over the past 12 months we’ve provided support for marketing strategy and planning to over 25 organisations working through NDIS transition. We’ve viewed the disability marketplace from many different perspectives, and seen the various approaches organisations are taking to NDIS. Whilst the landscape is changing rapidly, there are some general principles that seem to be holding true, so here’s our top five insights to guide marketing strategy in the NDIS. Continue reading…

The Bread and Butter Project: turning inspiration into a viable social business

Turning a personal passion into a viable social business might start with an inspirational story but it certainly won’t end there.

Bread and Butter

For Paul Allam, founder of Sydney’s Bread and Butter Project and the Bourke Street Bakery, the inspiration came from a visit to the social business Mae Sot on the Thai-Burmese border and a project led by nuns to train and employ refugee women to bake bread to sell into the local community, which included a significant NGO presence. Continue reading…

Customer loyalty – it’s simple yet complex

Loyalty is hard to come by these days – even in the not for profit sector.  Our communities are becoming more sophisticated, informed and savvy about the services they chose to engage in.  For community based organisations the issue with developing customer loyalty is not attracting new customers – it’s more about how we retain them.

Our regular customers need to walk away from every type of interaction feeling better than the start.  Think about it this way – every time you meet someone’s expectation you have only partially engaged them for their next visit.  If something newer or different comes along they may tempted to ‘check them out’.  We need to continually exceed expectations so when other options come their way they think – ‘nah I love where I am now’ or the best case scenario is that they don’t even see your competitors – it’s not even on their radar to try something else.

Loyalty is about creating a sense of allegiance in your customers where they become your advocates rather than a transactional customer.  Here are five ways to promote a sense of allegiance in your customers. Continue reading…

The power of partnerships

Major change may be initiated or catalysed by one person, but it’s rarely achieved or sustained through lone effort. Just as we learn as managers and leaders that we need to shift from personally delivering the goods to doing through others, so social innovators need to progress from a personal commitment to new product or methodology to building partnerships, networks and collaborations to effect change.

Bringing people on board

Continue reading…

Innovating through process

‘Our enterprises aren’t innovative in themselves, but it’s the process of empowerment.’
Louise Nobes, KiK 

When we think of innovation, we are probably inclined to think of digital technology or other ‘new and improved’ versions of everyday products, but innovation isn’t just about product, it’s also about process.

After 15 years as a social worker, working with young people in Adelaide’s northern suburbs, Louise Nobes was frustrated by the lack of impact – young people were ‘just as disengaged, just as unemployed’. Young people who were feeling that they weren’t good enough just couldn’t access employment through normal routes. Necessity (or perhaps it’s frustration) is the mother of invention, so Louise developed an approach that put young people front and centre to develop their own businesses (and jobs) based on a model that brings together Continue reading…

Customer Service or Customer Experience?

There is no doubt that consumer directed care has placed our service standards under the spotlight.  In a market place that is becoming more crowded and noisy, finding that special ‘something’ to attract and retain our customers has become a necessity for survival rather than a ‘nice to have’.  With so much focus on packaging effective and efficient products and services, the disability sector has come to the harsh realisation that ‘commercialisation’ and ‘bottom line’ results are now standard items on the strategic agenda.  The attraction and retention of our customers has become a vital part of our organisation’s success.

To keep our doors open we need customers that Continue reading…

Using carrots to focus on customers first

focus on customers first

Employee engagement principles are easy to understand, at least on a theoretical level.  Employees that feel valued for their inputs (knowledge, skills, experience, work ethic, ideas, feedback, performance etc.) are more likely to have higher engagement levels.  They go beyond the basic service deliverables and as a consequence they deliver positive customer experiences that add value to their customers’ everyday lives.  From a practical point of view, how can we encourage our employees to feel valued?  Here’s a few ‘carrots’ to consider. Continue reading…