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An Afternoon of Concern and Contrast at the World Business Forum

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The Sky is Still Falling…Maybe

The beginning of the afternoon at the World Business Forum can best be summed up as a sobering barrage of the pitfalls, perils, and problems ahead of us. David Rubenstein, founder of the Carlyle Group, the world's largest private equity firm, presented a non-stop litany of facts to drive home his admonition that "just because the recession will be ‘over’ soon doesn’t mean it’s all going to be OK." His command of the numbers and their implications was simultaneously amazing and numbing.

Then Jeffrey Sachs took us on a macro view of the unprecedented challenges we face as a result of living in a totally interconnected world, a planet bursting at the seams and not able to sustain itself, a US political system and governance gone awry over the past 25 years, and America's ever dimming presence and influence.

Whew. Do we have anything to look forward to? Hopefully.

Two Asset-Based Thinking takeaways:

  • Vigilance is Virtue – There still are tough times ahead. Consolidate your assets…personal, relational and situational…so you're ready to face them.
  • Cooperation and Collaboration on a global scale will be core drivers of a better future. No man is an island…positive, inter-dependent relationships are valued assets.

T. Boone Pickens: Building Value and Living Your Values

Substance. Style. Soul.

The discussion with Mr. Pickens had the feel and tone of a nice living room chat with one of your favorite uncles or mentors. The interviewer started out with a review of Mr. Pickens' great wealth. Mr. Pickens was quick to point out that it wasn't until he was 70 that he made his “first billion” and to add that his five children and thirteen grandchildren are an equally important measure of his wealth. Now that’s a set of values that all of us should emulate.

Immediately, it became apparent that Mr. Pickens views wealth as a consequence of hard work, risk taking, passion, and resilience. Perhaps more important, he believes that building and leveraging a portfolio of softer assets is also essential: listening, connection, service, purpose, and values.

He feels that CEOs must have a sense of caring and connection to their shareholders and, unfortunately, most do not, putting themselves before the good of their shareholders. Ain’t that the truth.

He really came alive when the discussion turned to his most recent venture, The Pickens Plan For Energy Independence. Mr. Pickens said he does not view himself as an environmental activist. He sees himself in pursuit of his Noble Cause, Security for America though energy independence…the positive environmental impact is an ancillary benefit. Some great T. Boone Pickens Asset-Based Thinking advice: the pursuit of your Mighty Cause and making “profit” go hand in hand. You have to change the way you see profit. It’s multi-leveled. Money. Emotional Rewards. Greater Good.

He is very proud of the fact that his Pickens Plan now has an online following of over 1.6 million people, what politicians call his "army." He sees those 1.6 million advocates as more powerful leverage that all his billions in dollars and corporate holdings. Another example of the value that Mr. Pickens places on softer assets and his sense of values

I'm signed up for the Pickens Plan and he's on my Mount Rushmore of people I admire and respect.

Kevin Roberts and Building Brands – Love Me!

Kevin is the Creative Director for Saatchi, a large multi-national ad agency. In his book, Lovemarks, he very smartly discusses why brands today have to create “loyalty beyond reason” by delivering “emotionally priceless value.” Then, a brand can transform itself into a "Lovemark."

The art of creating emotional connections with consumers to build brands is not new in the advertising business. In fact, satisfying emotional needs is a “cost of entry” in today’s communications business. The major "now" dynamic taking the art of emotion to new levels is power and control of consumer and social media.

The asset-based thinking insight in Kevin’s presentation was a simple one. To build a Lovemark, businesses have to let go of their brands, turn them over to the consumer. Let the brand speak for itself. In Asset-Based Thinking terms we call that “Losing Control to Get Traction.” This works just as well in your personal life as it does in building Lovemarks. Try it. You’ll like it.

George Lucas and Creative Innovation – Class!

George Lucas capped off the day with an intimate and personal discussion of his life and his journey through the film business. He is the antithesis of Hollywood. Calm, classy, reasonable, values-based, independent…and one of the most inventive and creative people on the planet. The total package. He learned early on how to work with the assets and opportunities which present themselves.

Here are some wonderful asset-based thinking insights I heard from George Lucas.

  • Art is communicating emotions from one human to another…we need technology to enable that transfer. The value of emotional connections drives much of what he does.
  • As Yoda might say, be careful with what you hate because you might become it. – Commenting on the fact that he really doesn’t like writing scripts. He wanted to be an illustrator and make documentaries. 
  • Never make your hobby your business – Advice from dad on the importance of commitment to professionalism. 
  • Believe in reasonable civil discourse as the best way to get things done. Don’t yell, demand or intimidate. Enough said. 
  • It’s not about writing a script. It’s about telling a story. Great advice on how to approach communication in general.

Finally, he encouraged everyone to put their passions to use for the greater good. What Asset-Based Thinkers call finding their “Mighty Cause.” George Lucas' Mighty Cause is learning and education. He founded the nonprofit Edutopia and is using his talents and resources to study how teachers teach, find and document best practices, and share them online with the world. His vision is to create “learning machines."

The afternoon started out with a barrage of the downside, the problems; then it gracefully moved though to a vision of upside possibilities and potential. A perfect setup for cocktails and the bloggers' dinner.

More to come tomorrow from Day 2. 

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About Hank Wasiak

Hank Wasiak is a communications industry leader and partner at the creative hot shop, The Concept Farm. Hank began his advertising career in 1965 as a real Mad Man at Benton & Bowles. He is a best selling author, teacher, motivational speaker and three time Emmy award winning television host. Hank and Dr. Kathy Cramer created a best selling business - self help book series based on Asset-Based Thinking published by Running Press. Hank also is an Adjunct Professor at USC's Marshall School Of Business.
  • Jo-Lynne Worley

    Flat out fabulous. I hope this is spread far and wide. Hank has captured the diversity of subjects and mind-sets and has put the wonderful Asset-Based Thinking perspective on it all.

  • http://assetbasedthinking.com/ Hank Wasiak

    Thanks JL. It was an amazing event and being part of the bloggers hub as a featured blogger was very special. One or two more Asset-Based Thinking WBF posts to come.