Robert Safian

Robert Safian Urged Audience to Focus on ‘Missions’ in Business

By Jamie Wilson

To wrap up the 2018 VM Summit, Robert Safian, founder of Flux Group and former editor-in-chief of Fast Company engaged the audience through four lessons and seven questions. His aim was to showcase the kind of tactics that define the modern company. These lessons and questions that Safian went through explored office and organization culture and the need for businesses to focus on “missions.” 

Keynote Speaker Robert SafianHis first lesson, speed matters, showcased the importance of building a culture of change within an organization. This was followed by an emphasis on youth. He said that Facebook represents what generational shifts can do. In fact, technology is moving so fast it’s creating “micro-generations” which define them. 

“Digital natives do signal a completely different way with interacting with the world,” he said. 

He then elaborated on the importance of human contact. “We all need each other. Human contact is what drives creativity. The answers to these challenges is human contact,” he said. “Creativity and innovation happens in the gaps between silos.”

Safian then used Microsoft to illustrate his lesson of having a learning culture in business. He showed how Satya Nadella, the current CEO of Microsoft turned the company from a know-it-all into a learn-it-all culture. He went on to explain that in this time of rapid change, having and defining a mission is important—mission beats marketing. 

“I’m obsessed with the idea of mission in business. It started with me looking at a particular data insight stating that workers at companies are less engaged with their work than they have been in the past. At those places where engagement is higher performance is higher.” 

Audience listening to Motivating Business Speaker Robert SafianSafian then posed seven questions to the audience:

  • Is this Day 1?
  • Am I continually learning?
  • Is what I’m doing relevant to the next generation?
  • What do we know for certain?
  • What can we control?
  • What do you stand for?
  • Are you comfortable with being uncomfortable

All of these questions sought to get the audience thinking critically about their position in the workplace and further expanding the concept of focusing on the “mission” within a business in this age of fast-moving change. 

“This is just the way the world is. You can lean into it and have fun with it,” he concluded.

 

Robert Safian motivates business audiences around the world as a premiere keynote speaker and interviewer/moderator.

How To Stand Out In The Attention Economy

There is blood everywhere. And lithe, scantily clad bodies. Music thrums hypnotically. Laughter rings. A weapon is drawn menacingly. Hundred-dollar bills float down through the fog. And don’t forget the cats: Aren’t they cute??
This is the modern media scape: An adrenaline-fueled, dopamine-engineered, titillating, exhilarating, unending plea for your ears, eyes, and mind. The channels are phone and screen, earbud and headset, social and search. The pace is relentless, and exhausting. Yet. We. Just. Cant. Stop. In today’s Attention Economy, any brand or business that wants to establish or maintain its relevance needs to grapple with these realities. Donald Trump has risen to the most powerful position in the world by deftly exploiting attention—indeed, he may be the most deft practitioner in the modern era. His any-hour-of-the-day tweets and off-the-cuff comments are too provocative to ignore. Just ask anyone at CNN.

 

The news cycle has become like a whiplash ride at an amusement park: Charlottesville, North Korea, hurricanes, earthquakes, NFL anthem controversies. It’s loud, and fast-paced, and a little scary. Was it ever different? Of course it was. When my kids ask me to show them what they call “classic movies” (basically anything that wasn’t shot in HD), they can’t believe how sedate the plotting is. I remind them that people actually used to wait until the evening news at 6 p.m., or even 11 p.m., to find out what happened that day. Now it is all instantaneous, a whirring, blurring swirl of information.

None of this is going away anytime soon. And we all have to react accordingly. Perhaps that means exercising a shade more discipline in how we spend our time. Professionally, though, we need to learn how to play this game for all it’s worth. Because if we don’t, our competitors surely will.
[Chart: Lazaro Gamio courtesy of Axios]

Easy to say; hard to do. One quick example: Giphy, the insta-video resource that now has—brace yourselves—almost 300 million users a day. Yep, more than Snapchat or Twitter. Betcha didn’t see that coming. What Giphy offers is a way to add emotional resonance to the often anodyne arena of messaging. It is a quintessential example of how much communications patterns are in flux, and how agile we all have to be in adapting to new formats and platforms.

Want to succeed in the Attention Economy—without losing your soul? Here’s how:

1. RIDE THE NEWS, AND THEN RISE ABOVE THE NOISE

To get people to engage with content, you need to be in front of them. Even more, you need to be constantly assessing what others are doing, and adjusting your tactics and your output in real time. While data can be useful, the critical factor if you want to separate yourself is organizational metabolism: rapid, streamlined decision making. The most distinctive, impactful content requires taking some risks without losing sight of your north star.

2. CREATE EMOTION

Controversy is one way to gain attention: Brashly challenge convention. (You might call this the Trump Doctrine.) Violence and sex works, too. But such engagement is often shallow and short-lived. To understand what anchors deeper, longer-lasting connection, recall how Hamilton became a global phenomenon. Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda used a 200-year-old story to tap into core human truths. The best creative linking of ideas and feelings looks effortless, but it is an art. The best advertising has always done this, whatever the medium. Giphy’s success is built on enabling our creative expression, providing just the right, nuanced image to capture a mood.

3. USE WHAT’S NEW

Once upon a time, we made fun of hapless smartphone users who forgot to turn their cameras to landscape perspective before making videos. And then Snapchat turned those “mistakes” into a new, booming format. From GIFs to chatbots, the tools available continue to proliferate. Even what’s old has become new, like audio, thanks to podcasts and digital assistants like Alexa and Siri.

4. BELIEVE IN SOMETHING

If you’re going to streamline decision making, take creative risks, and connect emotionally using new tools, it helps to have guiding principles. That’s not just about style guides and preferred, brand-appropriate words and images. It’s about clarity of purpose, the mission of your enterprise, what it is you really want to get done.  The word “authentic” gets thrown around, as if it’s something to be managed (or, in the worst cases, manufactured). But there’s no substitute for actually believing in something. Whether we kneel, link arms, or stand on the sidelines, our actions reveal who we really are.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Robert Safian is the editor and managing director of The Flux Group. From 2007 through 2017, Safian oversaw Fast Company.

Robert Safian Delivers Fascinating Speech to Business Leaders

By Kim Mikus, originally posted on the Daily Herald

Speed matters, as does a willingness to embrace new tactics and change in the workplace in order to grow as a company, award-winning national journalist Robert Safian told more than 500 business leaders Friday.

Safian has interviewed the most innovative CEOs in the country and shared what he has learned from stories he has written about them for Fast Company, Fortune, Time and other magazines. He was the keynote speaker at the annual Big Event breakfast at Marriott Lincolnshire held by Lake County Partners, celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Safian told participants the speed of change in a company is important. “Building a cadence of change” is key, he said, pointing to companies that have succeeded in this area, including Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon. “These companies are completely and continually redefining who they are. It’s not just an online seller of books or a place for college kids to meet each other,” he said. ” These companies are pushing themselves and they’re pushing each other in that process to continue to be more ambitious.”

Safian recently started The Flux Group, a media, insights and strategic advisory firm, after overseeing Fast Company’s print, digital and live-events content for the past decade.

Keynote Speaker Robert Safian

Safian said innovation is key and people in the workplace must work together to make changes happen. “Innovation often happens in the gap between silos,” he said. “We have to break down silos between the different parts of our business to be able to unlock those things” and find creativity and survive, he said.

Speaking of survival, Safian pointed to the father of evolution himself, “Charles Darwin noted that it’s not the strongest of the species that survives. It’s not the most intelligent that survives. It’s the one that’s most adaptable to change.”

Participants at the event said they were inspired by the speakers. “The key note was wonderful. One thing I picked up is that you have to be adaptable,” said Cheri Richardson of Gorter Family Foundation.

General Electric Large logo on Stage

Robert Safian onstage interview with GE Chairman and CEO, John Flannery

 

 

RS interview YT

GE’s Chairman and CEO, John Flannery, and Flux Group founder and former Editor-in-Chief of Fast Company, Robert Safian, discuss the future of additive manufacturing and its potential to transform the world of industrial manufacturing at Industry in 3D.

Thirteen Lessons of Innovation by Robert Safian

I got my first glimpse of Apple’s newest product as the sun was coming up. It was just after 7 a.m. on a Wednesday in January, two days after Apple executives, including CEO Tim Cook, began moving into Apple Park, the company’s new spaceship-like headquarters in Cupertino. As I was escorted around the gleaming structure, it occurred to me that it embodied everything Apple’s products represent: a glimpse of the future, and yet also something familiar—not science fiction, but a tangible vision made real.

When I sat down with Cook a while later, in a conference room labeled simply ceo, he talked about how central “humanity” is to Apple’s products, how tech specs and silicon advancements only matter if they enable users to improve their lives.

Apple has long been an icon of innovation. In an age of rapid change, what’s remarkable has been the company’s staying power. This year, it returns to the No. 1 ranking on our annual Most Innovative Companies list. Apple is the only business to have passed our editors’ criteria to make the list every year since 2008. Which does not mean that the company hasn’t hit roadblocks along the way; in fact, Cook was quite candid that innovation rarely unfolds in a straight line. While many outfits aspire to emulate Apple’s system, it’s the company’s adaptability that truly sets it apart. Apple’s culture combines intense effort, high standards, and a willingness to forge new paths, even if those paths may threaten the company’s existing products…click to read the full article.