Archive for the ‘Blogs’ Category

First Things First in Turbulence and Crisis

Thursday, February 20th, 2020

Here are three things you need to do when things shift again

Yesterday as I was coaching a senior executive, we got into the business side of the corona virus. She asked me what I’d learned running businesses during a large-scale crisis like SARS.

It became a conversation to answer this question: what can and must we do as leaders to keep our businesses alive during such times? If you are an entrepreneur or an executive responsible for P&L, read on. This is for you.

Image credit: Brian McGovan

Step 1: Refocus the Fear

Focusing on fear is not the answer. Yes, it must be acknowledged. Yes, respect it. Yes, follow recommended medical-hygiene practices—but then focus on the opportunities inevitably sparked by a crisis.

It’s an opportunity to strengthen relationships by helping your customers or suppliers through a tough moment. Cash flow is going to be an issue, with cancellations and delays. Your leadership role is to promote patience and solidarity. Immediate results include loyalty and reciprocal support.

It’s an opportunity to reassure your people that their roles (and thus their income) are stable. Help them stay calm about that, so they can be present and productive.

It’s an opportunity to do those important things that your business has been too busy to pay attention to. It’s time to look at those transformation projects and, while ordinary operations might be in a lull, put the energy, bandwidth, and capacity that is now available to good use.

Step 2: Find the Silver Lining

When the new version of the corona virus started to rise and the first signs of it showed up in Singapore, the city where I live, I put into play what I’d learned running a practice with PwC.

I looked at my lines of business and put them into two buckets.

Bucket 1: Services likely to be affected because they rely on face-to-face interaction. Into this bucket went our Unicorning Workshops and keynote speeches. In the last two weeks, I’ve had 20% of this year’s bookings delayed or cancelled.

Bucket 2: Things that, happily, happen in another plane, such as our scaling and toolkit services, coaching, and virtual workshops. I put my energy and action into those three opportunities.

The result: an agreement with one client to accelerate the development of a set of products that will enable her business to scale to $100 million. We’ve worked out a pace for product development and licensing and for a payment plan that makes sense, given the realities of her client’s corona-influenced cash flow and the value that these products will bring to them.

What could have looked like collapse is actually a multi-million-dollar opportunity.

Which brings me to the third concept my senior executive and I focused on.

Step 3: Keep The Lights On

The truth is, it’s likely to be financially tough for a while. Once peak SARS was past and the re-infection rate had dropped, it took over six months for the animal spirits of business to recover. The leadership challenge today is to manage both mind and money.

Manage mind first.

When our mind is present and free of fear, we can find opportunities. These create new data and contexts for the very practical decisions you’ll need to make to keep the lights on.

Keeping the lights on (KTLO) is as much about making sure your business mission in the world is preserved as it is about cash. Cutting corners or acting in ways that undermine your values is costly in the long run. The price you’ll pay for hasty, bad decisions that don’t reflect who you are could outlast this year’s corona virus by a long time.

Work through your budget, the cash flow forecasts, and the new opportunities that can be created. Make the changes you need to.

Corona will pass. And in the meantime, keep the good you’ve done in finding silver linings and refocusing fear. They are the investments that will enrich and grow your business, your team, and your mission.

Joanne Flinn ~ The Business Growth Lady

If you are a mission-driven entrepreneur or executive with P&L responsibility, let’s connect on LinkedIn.

What Can You Do For the Climate Crisis?

Monday, September 30th, 2019

It was 1976. I’m looking out of the cockpit window of a plane as we fly past Mount Kilimanjaro. The snow caps shine brightly. The pilot hands me a certificate, congratulating me for flying over the Equator for the first time.

Things have change since then.

Passengers are no longer allowed upfront into the plane cockpit. Kilimanjaro is no longer snow covered all year. I’m no longer a child. 

If you are reading this on the internet, you probably aren’t either.

The child that was on that flight would have been out of school on Fridays. She’d have marched for the climate and the planet. I’m applauding Greta Thunberg.

The adult in me has asked myself, what responsibility can I take? What can I influence? How can I help you and other to too?

I can write, I can speak, I can do what good business mentors do – ask the questions that’s help the tough answers be found.

I can do what good leaders do, create better futures. As a board member I can. As a human being I can too.

Business Leadership in the Climate Crisis

As a business leader, I can ask is my business CO2 neutral today? Congrats, Jeff Bezos for committing Amazon to this by 2030. Go further, commit to being climate positive across all the SDGs by 2030.

After all, CO2 is part of the climate equation. So is plastic, clean water and waste.

Big business is more than 60% of the global GDP. Leadership decisions here count. Kudos for GoldmanSach’s for their advocacy for proactive climate investments and BNPParibas for your action too.

As a CEO, I know that if we set KPIs and reward the behaviors, the business will find solutions. They’ll look for them. New services, products and solutions will be created. New businesses and economies will be created.

To be clear, I’m advocating designing the future not simply responding to it.

“Rather than being screwed, if we act quickly, a sustainable future could be cleaner, quieter, safer, more technologically advanced and more prosperous than the alternative”. Paul Romer, winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize in economics

Romer identifies the challenges to this are not primarily economic, nor are they primarily technological, they are institutional, cultural and organizational. This is the leadership space.

The challenges are leadership.

A climate positive business economic system even more prosperous than the current destructive system is possible. In the last GFC, four trillion dollars was pumped into the US economy, a few years later, it had resulted in a $34 trillion dollar expansion. Good ROI. #ClimateCrisis is as strong a reason for central bank action as the GFC.

As a stakeholder and shareholder and board member, vote and expect Boards to look at sustainability as more than business sustainability. Go for climate positive across the SDGs by 2030.

Some Boards are interpreting the Environmental, Societal and Governance (ESG) reporting requirements required of listed companies as business sustainability alone. I contributed expert input to Board Governance needs in Asia to the CPA Australia earlier this year. It’s clear that national legislations vary significantly.

Go further than the legislation. Ask yourself, do you plan on being alive in 10 years? Do you want to breathe? Do you want a business and a planet that’s dealing with the warfare that comes from a billion people being displaced from storm, floods and collapsed food systems?

As a human, it is frankly scary. I look back to that young girl in a plane looking out at the majesty of Mount Kilimanjaro and realize there is a lot I can do as a human.

Wisdom of the ages says we reap what we sow. I’d prefer to sow a prosperous human economic system with a sustainable green planet. 

I know it’s not over night.

Instead of saying it’s too hard or that it’s impossible. It’s about ‘do it’. The climate crisis is up there with nuclear war (negative) and man on the moon (positive). We avoid that bad. We got man there in under a decade. We gained that good.

Climate varies
Cold in some places

Getting Practical about Business Action for the Climate Crisis

As a business woman, I’m practical. I like visions and goals to have a road map and practical frameworks.

Here is a practical framework to measure progress to sustainability. It was developed for a client’s business and it’s shared with permission. May it spark your own business goals.

The columns represent goals, while the rows address key elements of their business success.

Business Goals for Climate Crisis

* SDG #5 highlights that economic equity between men and women is an accelerator of sustainability.

** Unicorns have a super agile adaptive mindset. Necessary for the pace of change that climate and IR4.0 have for business.

Do I know how their business will achieve this at this precise moment? No, but then no unicorn knows how it will achieve it’s goal when it starts.

Climate neutral is a good start. The foot needs to get off the polluting peddle. Kudos to L’Oreal for your work piloting this across your supply chain.

Climate positive is next. Stabilize what’s already out there currently creating damage. And then, to get to the deeper need to systematically operate our business and economic system on the basis of climate sustainability. 

It means clean up work.

Take Climate Action Personally

I’m looking at my life. I’ve a backlog of pollution, of CO2, of plastic and waste to consider.

I get how China can say to the West that you sunk masses of carbon into the system in the past. While much of the focus is about getting to climate neutral, it’s also about getting the past pollutants out of the system.

I was on that flight over Mount Kilimanjaro. Even though my parents were flying me back to see my grand parents, as an adult, I can say I was there. I can choose to offset and clean up on my past at the same time as I focus on my business being CO2 neutral now and being systemically climate positive by 2030.

On Sunday, in honor of that girl on the plane, in honor of the kids who march Fridays and in honor business leaders who are showing up, I did something practical. You can do this too.

I got out excel.

I worked out how many flights I’d taken in my life. I included the ones my parents had put me on when I went off to boarding school. I counted the ones I’ve taken for business.

Total so far: 980 flights.

This is 1960 takes offs and landings – where the most fuel is consumed.

I estimated the flying hours with short haul flights and long haul flights. It’s 7134 flying hours.

I’m committed to offsetting these and to do the same to new flights.

I put money where my mouth and words are and took action. To begin to offset this, I’ve invested in protecting fruit trees planted by a women’s society. 14974 days of protection. It’s a start. Thank you #B1G1 for making this possible. 

Unicorns begin small, and they work it out. 

I invite you to see your business as a climate unicorn. Imagine the change it can make, the billions that it can benefit, and yes, the value you will create in the process.

It includes prosperous people, successful business and a thriving planet. It’s possible.

Do you believe it’s possible? What’s your experience with going for the impossible and making it happen? Does your business get why it’s important to act today? What suggestions do you have for action in your business?



When to pay attention to the background?

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

With the volatility of presidential announcements and a strong feeling of ‘what is the new world order?’ it’s very easy to ignore things going on in the background.

Why do I look at the background?

The background influences everything  going on right now. To become future ready, organisations and leaders need awareness of this broader picture, else the future arrives, it’s a surprise.

After all, we humans seem to be hard wired to pay attention to the brightly colored, fast moving object. It’s either dangerous or interesting. But the very slowly moving, adding up bit by bit changes, these are easy to ignore.

It’s the difference between a heart attack calling urgent attention or slow incremental weight gain. The later is dangerous if you want a long and healthy life.

Last week, I had both to consider.

A family member in hospital for a heart attack, while I was thinking about my contributions to the Oxford Futures Forum at the University of Oxford on Scenarios, Climate Futures and the role of Arts and the Humanities.

Oxford Futures Forums look at integrating professions to deal with complex trends playing out over 30+ years. It pulls things that add up little by little in the background, into the foreground.

As an individual, I hanker to live a long and healthy life. I wish the world I eventually leave to be happier, kinder and fairer than the world I was born into. The vision of happy people, happy planet seems a good thing to aim towards. It beats the alternative.

Yet, the most likely climate trajectory (science) is that in 70 years, the Arctic will be habitable for alligators.

If you, like me are over 40, it’s not likely that we’ll be alive. But we may be alive for a good amount of the next 70.

What does this say for future societies, the world’s financial and industrial system and the lives of our children and grand children? This is when futures scenarios are incredibly powerful.

As leaders, it’s also a place for us to influence for the better.

For a happy planet, the science is clear. It’s now about values, decisions and action — and influencing them. Ethically.

It’s not simply about a happy planet. Will there be happy people in a world with alligators in the Arctic?

So back to the opening question, when is a good time to look at the background?

Now is good. The incremental pieces that create the background continue to add up, compounding each day.

10 things to look for in a business coach

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

How do you pick a business coach?

Good hair. But jokes aside, you want someone who is put together, because how you do anything is how you do everything.

Interviewee profiles: Founders and C Suite, age 32-42, high growth companies over $10,000,000 in revenue with visions of a more human business world…In their words…

Disarming. They need to be able to put you at ease, because you need to be very unfiltered with them.

Experienced. Older than you. Not wanting to be age-ist here, but. It’s not necessarily about age, but someone who’s been there, done that, in an area … someone who either has tangential competency, or greater competency parallel with yours.

You need someone who has more experience than you have in your domain of expertise, or someone who has experience outside of your domain.

Fun. You have lots of deep and dark conversations with your business coach, so you need someone you can drink wine with.

Teachable Moments. Someone who has clear methods and frameworks and they are able to articulate complex concepts simply in a way that you can understand. Someone who has good stories.

Been there, done that. Has worked with lots of previous clients, can pull on expertise from been there, done that situations. It’s real life experience.

Engagement. Someone who has a flexible engagement agreement that is appropriate to your stage of business and place in life.

Whether they’re being paid in equity or in fees, it’s that they’re invested in the future, not the present.

Adaptive. They have the ability to react and keep working with you as things change on different arrangements.

Let’s face it, the entrepreneurial journey, one thing, it’s not as predictable.

Emotional Intelligence. Someone that can read you, understand where you are, and unpack things with.

Connections. Your business coach should have people at their fingertips that they can refer you onto if they hit a block in their own expertise or if there’s a strategic benefit in doing so.

Humility: You need to get a sense from them that they don’t know everything, and they know they don’t know everything, but they have the willingness to find someone who does if something that comes up which is out of their area.

If you counted… it’s 11… see it as a bonus!
Next>>> What do you get from a great business coach?

I mentor and coach business executives, business leaders and business founders through the growth journey. I’ve been doing this for 20 years. I love being able to help people with great visions who have built the foundations of a business take it where it needs to go next.

Sometimes it’s pitching, other times it’s an internal issue or it may be simply the very real need for a sounding board and an ear that understands what your journey really is like.

If you are ready to be mentored and coached by me, book a time with me at Mentor and lets get started.

How to make a million from art assets

Friday, August 18th, 2017

Buying Art – for the financially rational minded

Above all, art is a personal choice. For those who want to know the best time to buy, this article answers the question:

How do you make $1,000,000 from art assets?

Million dollar artworks are no longer unusual*. But how do you make a million dollars buying & selling art? It’s the age old rule of any type of investment –

buy LOW and sell HIGH.

Damien_Hirst_Dots _ source Wikimedia_Commons

Damien and the million dollar dots

The problem with art is that you need to know about the artist before they become famous. That’s a little bit tricky. If you knew Modern Artist Damien Hurst and purchased his Dots work you could expect to sell them on the market today for $53,000 to $1.3 million.

As an investor, it’s about timing, so too for art investing. When an artist moves from one stage to the next, the value of the art asset appreciates. The best situation is to invest just prior to an artist’s move from proven and undiscovered to proven and discovered.

Art Asset AppreciationWhat’s Proven: an artist that exhibitions in multiple countries, and has been exhibited in top galleries or museums

Discovered: More and more people come across the artist and they buy. In economic terms, demand exceeds supply

So, when is a good time to buy?

Obviously when an artist is Unproven there is low investment value and the potential for art asset appreciation is nil. You might be waiting awhile for a good return.
Proven but Undiscovered is the best investment value because the potential for art asset appreciation is at it’s highest. The artist is climbing and just like with a stock, you want to buy on the way up. It’s like getting the pre-IPO price on a share.
Proven and Discovered is not as good of an investment because you’ve lost the timing and may be purchasing the art asset at Post IPO valuations.

 The Solution

 Booth Aster’s artworks have been exhibited and purchased in Germany, Spain, the USA and Singapore. They’ve been showcased at the Museum of Art and Design and the Art Sciences Museum. (PROVEN)

And now with July’s TEDxArtist-In-Residence out with the world’s attention, discovery is just around the corner.

Sounds like the right time to buy, doesn’t it?

As an investor, art is an under-represented asset class in most investment portfolios. According to Deloittes (2012) there is a growing recognition of art as an investment asset class by investors. And as we all know, art is an appreciating asset over time that can be enjoyed a lot longer than Chateau Laffite.

Three Affordable Art Assets currently available from Booth Aster

For those looking for investment grade art assets above $100,000, contact Booth Aster via email for a confidential discussion at booth[at]

Get Your Art Asset before Booth Aster is discovered and the assets price goes up.

*Here is a list of artists who regularly sell for well over a million in the UK. Three are women doing over a million a work which is encouraging.



Art to Lift the Soul – Why buy art?

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

People ask ‘why buy art?’ It’s simple. Does it speak to you inside?

For example:

My burnt out soul needed art for how it helped me feel.

I needed something to remind me of what passion, joy and love felt like. I needed something to remind me of who I could be if I put the fears and rationality aside. I needed something to show up each day for me when the distractions of life came by.

Art does this.

I buy art pieces that speak to me. Some I create specifically. I put them up where I can see them every day.

All of it is art to lift the soul.

I’m also asked ‘what art have you bought?’ Aka do I walk my talk? 🙂

These are three art pieces and what they’ve meant for me on my life’s journey. Do you related to the moments?

Anna Flinn_my_Donald Friend_BarFly The Bar Fly

I brought this sketch by Donald Friend, a very well established Australian Artist.

I loved its humor and lightness.

At the time it reminded me to invest in the life I wanted even if I could simply afford a sketch.

Pen on Paper, 10 cm x 15cm

Anna Flinn_my_Luke Wagner small From Where I am Standing

This oil painting is by Luke Wager, now an established Tasmanian Artist.

This totally describes how I felt, yearning for the space to fly.

It’s in my living room so I ‘live with’ this every day. It reminds me to keep believing particularly when I need it.

Oil on Canvas, 250 cm x 120 cm

VOS with Signature Cream.001 Voluptuousness of the Soul
by Booth Aster
This piece was created on request, ‘bespoke’ in art speak. The values and feelings wanted were richness, the sense of flowering and growing. The blue bra holding these wings is a touch of lightness as bras hold we girls up.Sculpture, 55 cm x 35cm x 15cm

What are you looking for in life? Is there part of you that wants to show up?

Who would you be if you could be anything?

These are the questions that got me started, these are the ones that lead me to Wings. This is we begin when I create art for you.

May you find the art that puts Wings on Your Soul.

~ Anna

7 things I learned about creativity, leadership and results as TEDxArtist-in-Residence

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

It began with a problem. Or as the Chinese would say, an opportunity.

Read on for the behind the scenes story, for the bullets, see the end.

Behind the scenes

It’s Thursday, 7:10pm and I receive an email. ‘We would like to invite you to be the TEDxAIR for TEDxPickering St at the Art Sciences Museum in Singapore.’

It’s in 8 weeks.

Side note: What’s a TEDxAIR? TED stands for Technology, Engineering and Design. The design side got a bit lost so 3 years ago the first Artist-in-Residence or AIR was created to link to the creative communities and to see how ideas are expressed in other mediums. Each TEDxAIR is unique. Todate there have been around 18 ranging from Mt Hood USA to the Courtauld Institute UK and now the PickeringSt at the Art Sciences Museum in Singapore.

In between saying ‘Oh, Yeh! Oh Fxxk! Oh, Yeh! Oh Fxxk!’ to myself, I read on. I am asked to create artwork and installations to inspire attendees at the TEDx event. The theme is ‘Quotients’ – as in intelligence quotient IQ or EQ the emotional intelligence quotient. They asked ‘What other important quotients are there?’

As an artist, I’m complimented. But 8 weeks is an extremely short time to do commissioned work. Understanding the essence of their need, developing the artistic concept, agreeing this, validating that it’s executable (do able), actually doing it and installing it is something that usually takes months even years.

And I’m due in Oxford the next week for a think tank. I don’t have 8 weeks!

We meet the next morning, the TEDx convener, Ri and I.

Our first conversation: We decide go for it. We know we have just met, we don’t know each other, we don’t know the budget. It turned out the previous artist who had to pull out had funding, but it attached to him.

In situations like this, it’s either step up for the ride and trust that we’ll do something amazing or run for the hills.

We decided we’d trust that we could work it out.

Delivering the promise

Over the next 8 weeks, we had to live this ‘trusting it will work out’.

Side notes: What does trusting it will work out actually look like? It’s not naivety. Lots went wrong if I used corporate standards of practice. Well, you could call it failures in that there were many hiccups. Or you could say ‘we failed forward’. Or you could see this as the real story of the creativity and innovation process. One that actually delivers.

The creative process used here is the same one I use with large companies doing white space transformation. There are more parallels between the creative process for art and for successfully executing on business transformation than is generally realized. Using an inappropriate program process is a significant contributor to the 93% failure rate seen in corporates.

 We do our first site visit. The space is huge and tiny. Both at the same time. The stage art installation is in a specific location, we’ve 4m by 2.4 m to work with. The foyer is 40 meters by 5 stories. It’s huge.

I put a concept forward, then I’m off to Oxford.

I get back and do another site visit to confirm sizes and spaces.

It’s 6 weeks out, a 3rd site visit. The head videographer (he who record the fabulous TED talks) doesn’t like the initial concept. Nor does he like its color.

Back to the drawing board.

At 3 am, I’m dealing with ‘what is the purpose of the artist?’ inner question and realize, ‘the concept, it’s the butterfly of Chaos Theory.’ You recall the one that flaps their wings over the Amazon and creates huge changes else where in the world?

TED is about ‘ideas worth sharing’. As the artist in residence, I wanted to express this in the art installation that acts as the stage backdrop.

Ideas worth sharing are butterflies that change the world

The concept is refined over caffeine the next day with Ri in our second critical conversation.

We’ll use parchment paper for the translucency. Ideas are intangible. Concept of wings flying to link to sharing. Later on we added a second layer, the gestation of ideas, like a caterpillar that eats, cocoons then morphs into the butterfly.

As this develops, one layer would be modern western pop art inspired by Roy Lichtenstein, the second, we’d use the Cutout and Shadow Technique inspired by traditional Asian paper cuts from China and the Indonesian paper shadow puppets. This is fitting for Pickering St. This TEDx is named after the first officer in the British Colonial Service who spoke both English and Chinese.

We’d laser cut the story of ideas to be modern. Given the scale which when we finally calculated what it would take 800 cm of paper, folded like a curtain, there was no way we could do it by hand. The laser cutting of the pattern would create the texture so the story would be visible. Backlight for depth.

The final concept: Ideas are Butterflies, it’s 4 meters x 2.35 meters, made from paper, space and light.

This is about as intangible and ephemeral as you could get.


The video guys oked the demo version.

Side Bar: In the creative white space of exploration and development, insights comes from unexpected quarters. Even feelings are all important elements that create a powerful concept that can be validated. Ideas develop into the vision, the thing that we say ‘this is the thing we are going for’. There is a distinct yet intangible sense ‘ah, this is it!’  

Moving into the next stage of creativity is the actual execution on the core elements of the vision. Note, in the first stage, ‘how’ is not a big element, it was simply a validation point thanks to the timeline. It was not a constraint.

Into the next hurdle

In parallel, I’m also creating a TED talk. Actually, it feels like the TED talk – they ask if you had one idea to share, the idea of a lifetime, what would it be? Which feels pretty high stakes for me. Then it is finding the courage to share what really feels important. In real life, there is always more than one thing going on.

Back to art in action. This is strategy in action. Art is a concept delivered. Art is strategy executed.

Sidebar: This is a big challenge that a lot of companies face. The great idea may exist but executing those ideas is a problem. That’s why so many million dollar ideas don’t see the light of day. Sound familiar? Underneath this, we used a structured process to hone the most appropriate idea for our goal, and then a second structured process that integrates artistic creativity with program management to deliver results.

How do we actually convert the concept into reality?

It is only impossible until you do it

We, by this stage, Ri is firmly part of the creative team, we put a call for help out as more detailed work on the concept continues. Art is a team process.

The concept is sketched and tested – about version 8 or was it 15? – it feels right.

I spend 12 hrs hand folding paper to experiment to see which technique works best.

Lasers, at the scale we need, are huge and expensive. It turns out the one that could have done it, has been decommissioned.

The guys at the Fab Café at the Art Sciences Museum test out part of the concept so we know how it will behave when we laser.

The files we need to instruct the laser are infinitely more complex than we’d thought. There is no spray can dot creating tool in AI. Every dot is by hand. On an 8 meter file.

One graphic designer collapses working till 3:20 am.

We are now 3 weeks out.

Ri is discovering skills she didn’t know she had. We break files limits, we work around things. We adjust files so that the layers cooperate together.

We are now 2 weeks out.

We find a laser. The guy is wonderful. ‘Come in with the file. I’ll cut. I need it in dmx format.’

What’s dmx? We discover. We also find out that converting our file to this does stuff. More fixing (failure = recover in action).

It’s a week out.

The laser dude, he’s never cut paper. He’s on the adventure too.

Lasers are hot. Paper burns. He’s doing it layer by layer.

We have 10 different panels to burn. We need a spare in case one tears. 20 panels. It is 3 days out.

I get the call saying ‘don’t worry, it will be fine’

It’s all be so crazy, I actually do. Not worry, this is.

Friday am it’s ready to be picked up. The event starts Saturday at 12 noon.

The sheets are 2.4 meters long and 80 cm wide. I’ve got to work out how to carry them.

It’s raining. Parchment and rain is not a good look.

We were meant to be doing set up Friday am. Someone else is using the space Friday. We can’t start till 7pm.

I get there with everything I’ll need – I’ve this artwork ‘Ideas are Butterflies’, plus ‘Gaia’s Wings’, an 8m by 4.5 m installation for the foyer and another 6 pieces for the installation at the entrance of the Art Sciences Museum. It’s 9 pm.

My security pass is only valid from midnight.

I get in, there are some amazing volunteers who help put together the parchment. We lay out the pieces – there are 10 sheets of parchment, 80 cm x 2.4 m each. We have to work out which fits with which. It’s an 8 meter across puzzle.

Carefully we connect the 10 panels. Thank God the room next to the stage is huge.

Even more carefully, we fold the huge fragile artwork so it’s like a curtain.

We create loops so it can hang.

We get it on the rod, and carefully, carefully carry it to the next room, to the stage to hang it. To tweak the folds so it really looks like a curtain. I finally leave at 4:30 am Saturday.

A few hours later, at 10:30 am in the morning when I get back in, the lights appear, thanks to the video guys… we light up… it’s a sunrising light with the caterpillar of an idea being born as a butterfly.

It’s noon. TEDx begins. Ideas worth sharing.

Take Aways from Doing the Impossible aka TEDxAIR in 8 weeks

  1. Create Magic. You can create magic and the insanely impossible if you believe you can.
  2. Trust in each other. This can exist even if you haven’t ever worked together before. We trusted that each of us were doing our best. We knew we were not perfect and that we were on new territory. Conversation was critical to our success.
  3. Disciplined Creativity for Delivery. Underneath this story is a structured creative process integrated with the discipline of adaptive project management.
  4. Continuous prototyping. We validated continuously. This took time and resources. There was wastage – which was required as we didn’t have time for ‘do agains’
  5. Future Focused. Things went ‘wrong’ all the time. The closer it got to the date, this moved from once a week, to every day. At times it felt on the hour. To succeed in this type of environment, we had to live from trust. Practically this meant that each time things went off, we’d both go ‘ok, back to the big picture, so how?’ We were solution finding, future focused. At no time were we blame or past focused.
  6. Collective leadership. I lead the creative vision, Ri was instrumental in the execution. It’s a team effort, we each added different parts. At least 13 people contributed to this. Some of whom I didn’t even see, but they are there and are appreciated.
  7. Challenge is Stretch. Creativity and innovation will get No’s. The video guys were still unsure of the final work when they started doing recording tests at 11:30am. They wanted to take it down. But they kept it up for my TED talk as the first speaker. Then they left it till the break, and finally the whole event. They’d found that the art did work for them.

If they hadn’t said no initially, I’d not have stretched the creativity. Ideas would not be butterflies that change the world. Their challenge added hugely. They stretched me as an artist. And yes, they got stretched too. We both expanded.

If you are having challenges with creativity, time frames or getting results, it is an issue with the creative process-in-action.

Scale it: do you need ideas to deliver? Is your time frame short? Establish what each week gained would mean to your clients, organization and staff.

For example: a concept that is potentially $2.5 million per year in 2 years is worth $48,000 a week. $25 million pa is $480,000/week. Your measurement may be people helped as an NGO. In both cases, the more swiftly and brilliantly the idea becomes come real, the more valuable it is.

Getting creativity right is more that reducing risk and preventing loss, it is about making the impact and getting the results you really want.

Put these 7 points into action. You will see creativity, innovation and leadership delivering at a higher level. You will see results.

If creativity, time frames, strategy or results are high on your list of priorities, connect with me for an exploratory conversation on the situation, to give you initial insights and see if we both are a fit for each other.

Project Wings Pte Ltd (c) 2017

7 Meta-Trends Defining Your Business in 2017

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

How many are you dealing with?

Death and taxes are highly certain. The meta-trends redefining our world are certain, the rest is uncertain. Can we drop the false certainty from data and work with what’s really around us?

Global statistics show only about 10 % of businesses will be. A microscopic number will be around in 30 years. Yet while our business might not be here, we individually probably will be. We might as well create the future we prefer.

It’s those with commitment who change the world. Gandhi and Mandala did. Obama, Winfrey Gates and Jobs have. A powerful vision can do much.

7 meta trends will influence our businesses and lives for the next 30 years whether we are Millennial, Gen XY or Baby Boomer.

These trends will impact how we live, work and play. The choices we consciously make today will define this world. But if we don’t admit that these meta trends are out there or if we only focus on a couple and ignore the rest, we will be blindsided.

The 7 Meta-Trends

Meta Trend 1. The New Age of Wealth and Life

Nutshell: More silver consumers, late wealth for Millennials, assets hollowed out, Gen XY are zombied.

Business opportunities will shift as more and more people enter the silver 70s. Gen XY are caught in the middle with post global financial crisis careers and finances while the millennial see life about life over wealth creation, thanks in part to seeing ‘zombied’ parents. While silver is the new gold, our joint future is post-millennial.

The basis for wealth creation, retirement and finances will re-define success for business and life.

Implication: What will wealth become? When will we really retire? What is ‘living well? For that matter, what is dying well? What is the well lived life?

Meta Trend 2. Supply Chains: Feeding & Watering the World

Nutshell: Stressed supply chains and more resources consumed with population growth and desired lifestyle

It’s simply food and water. The average human will die within 10 days without food or water.

Critical parts of the human lifeline (aka the global supply chain) are under increasing stress. Interconnected logistics that moves food, fashion and consumables swiftly around the world only needs minor knocks to break down. Supply chains have been deconstructed, distributed and dependent on multiple sub-contractors spread across the world shipping things globally.

With increasing populations globally, fresh water systems are under pressure from farming and urban demand for water. The FAO reports a third of the worlds food production goes to waste while people starve. At the other end of the supply chain, waste disposal is putting increasing pressure on other environmental systems.

People, companies, industries, economic systems, environmental systems and countries grow ever more entwined even as political debate may suggest other wise.

Implication: Can we be fully transparent about our supply chains and its fragility? Can we the hidden costs and impacts of our current practices? What could create trust and sustainability in this entwined world?

Meta Trend 3. The Human-Urban

Nutshell: It is no longer simply the human being

These days 80% of people live in cities. This density of living has it’s own economic and environmental consequences. Telecoms and technology are helping billions of people are coming online. Data is public. Privacy is a future luxury. If it can be automated, it will.

With robotics and artificial intelligence coming out of the background, what it means to be human, to work and to be valued will change. This may be our generations equivalent to Copernicus discovering the earth revolved around the sun combined with the printing press on steroids.

Implication: What is society, rights and values in this post urban world? What is it to be human when the best becomes an AI robot? More personally, who do you wish to be as the nature of work changes? How will we value humans?

Meta Trend 4. Tech – TechTech, FinTech and MedTech

Nutshell: Electrical self-driving cars, eMoney, re-grown organs are now

Tech in its multitude of forms will keep playing out. Forty years ago, no internet. Now it’s the internet of everything. Money is now electrons. Medicine keeps pushing forward. All making for a better life, each with dark un-discussed sides of pollution, cyber-fraud and medical ethics. Security was once about muscles, now it’s about who controls what electrons in the world of cyber security.

Implication: With the conveniences of tech, this is about having the courage to not simply take it on face value. What becomes valuable when we don’t need people to produce? What becomes important when electrons rule the world? What is ‘work’ when it’s ai?

Meta Trend 5. New Social Values + Social Dis-Connectivity

Nutshell: Human relationships – virtual or real?

In a world where money is electrons, and credit creation is the driver of GDP growth, wealth is something other than simply money and assets. Science tells us hugs are valuable, meditation is worth while.

Who we are with each other is changing. Time is the new luxury. Ownership is about sharing. Relationships are virtual and face time is now an app. Yet cafes and places to connect and be with others show that the need for real world connection is still here.

Implication: What will we value? What values are you using to prioritize your life, time and relationships to live authentically?

Meta Trend 6. Gaia and the Limited Unlimited

Nutshell: When the rising middle class wants a global lifestyle, can we continue to ignore the full cost of production with climate change?

With Chinese, Indian and Indonesian middle class wanting to live in western affluence and see the world, production impact of the world lifestyle will increase. 2 billion more people will enter the middle class in the next 20 years. Understandably, they’ll want the affluent lifestyle.

There are two ways to see nature and the planet – on TV or get out there into nature. Either way, the current global production practices say we’d need 4.1 planets if everyone lived the full Western lifestyle, suggesting plenty of opportunity for breakthroughs that use the unlimited resources (eg sun) versus limited resources. Clearly the extent to which real costs are factored into corporate cost structures will influence actions.

Look at this in context of climate change. It’s only a few more degrees for the world to have alligators in the Artic. The tropics would be more than hot. Letting climate wait and see is watching an egg dropping to the ground and saying it’s fine – simply as it has not hit the ground yet. 30 years is not long in climate terms.

Implication: How is the real cost of production recognized by accounts? Where will new industries be and which current ones will go the way of the dinosaur? What tech will help this? What’s the politics of wealth and power in this? 

Meta Trend 7. Capacity to impact, help and benefit

Nutshell: The post capitalist life – wealth in the new world order

In all this expanded capacity to see what is happening, to connect, to automate and use technology, and when money is electrons, who really knows what will be in 10, 20 or 30 years?

Trend 7 is about choice, this is neither positive or negative. It’s personal: it is possible to see the future as a time of turmoil, constraint and scarcity. It’s equally a time of opportunity, of connection and contribution.

This is also about courage. The courage to ask big questions and to do something.

Wealth and value is intangible. It’s about what we value. It’s our values in action. We’ve gone from a world where capital was land, to one where economic growth is about credit. The new capital is trust. Values are increasingly driving value.

To build trust, we actually need to be clear about what we value. With the transparency of Social Media, our truths show up swiftly and globally.

Implication: What economic and financial system will come out of these changes? What are the real values that we live by? What big questions are we willing to answer? Will our answers and actions be consistent with our value(s)?

What courage do you need for the choices you wish to lead?

So what’s possible?

With so much in flux, one choice is to simply say, “it’s all too much”, or to simply watch and continue ‘business as usual’. This, however, is a dangerous longer term option.

Another is to see a world of infinite possibilities, and that we can deliberately and consciously create a world that we prefer.

As a leader, consider these questions:

  • What world would you like to create?
  • Which of these trends do you want to influence for the better?
  • What would your business, organization, customers and employees need to believe about your vision for it to be real?

Overnight success really takes a decade. Big things can happen over 10 years.

I’m curious about what’s going on within these trends, so I will be interviewing other leaders in these areas. Who would you like me to interview? Drop me a note on LinkedIn message.

This is the introductory article to a 7 part series. It is a contribution to the 2017 Oxford Future Forum on Scenarios, Climate Change and the Arts.

FINTECH: the Art of Money

Friday, October 21st, 2016

The link between money and art is obvious in Italy. Money is an artwork.

Stay with me for a moment. This is a human not a technical question. Take that million of gold. It’s factually gold. A metal. We’ve put value on it.

Back in the day, money was gold. Gold was used for exchange. Gold was rare, beautiful and useful.

Officially, as an economist, the idea is that to create money you can either make things or provide services that others value.

Or today, you can use a keyboard, a computer and be an approved authority and create it. Now it is FINTECH.

A government borrows from a central bank and puts money out in the markets. What actually happens today is something is typed into a computer. It is “Ones and Zeros”.

The funds then go to the regular banking system that most businesses and people use.

The banks can then lend with leverage. One dollar becomes 10. The 10 becomes 100. At least this is the idea. The banks may not lend or only lend to a selected few.

It’s what the Quantitative Easing was about.

It gets interesting when money is electrons.

It’s all electrons.

Which is pretty creative. As there is no limit to electrons. So there is no limit to money. I’ll save inflation and governance for another day.

If money is now infinite, what is it really as humans? as a social system?

FinTech is accelerating money as electrons with new ways to use information technology around finance, exchanges, payments along with anti-money laundering, tracking terrorists and undesirables and control.

The art of money is now about electrons, trust and confidence. It’s about exchange.

I create XXX, provide service YYY or send you ZZZ, and you send me ‘N’ electrons.

Money is artwork.

In art, a masterwork is a work that lifts and expands those engaged with it.

The dark side of a master work is to create something that looks like a master work, sold as a master work but it’s actually a fraud, debased and destructive of trust.

This is the challenge for FinTech and the Modern Money System.

Is it to be a masterwork or will it simply be a fraudulent block of gold – gold on the outside and lead on the inside?

With FINTECH Festival celebrating finance and technology, perhaps we might also talk about the human side of money in the days of electrons?

What does money really mean now? What is its value now money is infinite?

The Money Thing

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

The million triggered something. What is money and meaning in the well lived life?

A million dollars can be…

  • A book sized block of gold or meals for a decade or 20 weddings or 4 degrees from a top university
  • A fraction of a CEO’s annual salary or 241 rice farmers and their family working all year
  • Research into the biggest disease, malaria or 83,333 rural family in Kenya having access to income

It could be as simple as million dollar health insurance policy. Peace of mind for a minor illness… actually, is it really about being healthy?

A million is a pretty amazing thing. It’s big enough to do something with and it’s small enough to have meaning.

At the other end of the money scale: there is an estimated 1.2 quadrillion dollars in the financial markets. Mind boggling. If a million dollars is a square millimeter, it’s 1.6 football fields.

The million is a useful measuring stick.

But the interesting thing is what is it that we want to measure?

In life, is it the millions? Or is it something else?

As a career focused A type personality in banking and technology, millions can easily become the thing. It’s a job hazard. It’s easy to loose sight of the meaning.

We saw this in the Financial markets in the last decade, where decisions showed ethics had lost meaning.

There is value in meaning. Even in the financial space. Particularly in the financial space.

If the money thing was not there, what would you measure your life by? What give it significance? What gives your life meaning?

How to Buy Right-For-You Art

Sunday, March 27th, 2016

Art is about Feelings.

‘When will you marry’, Gauguin asks as he paints.

An investor paid $300 million for these Tahitian beauties in 2015. He cared alot.

What it takes to buy art? How do I make sure I get something that is meaningful for me?

And pay fair value?

There are 5 steps to this.

What is art in the first place?

It’s the expression of human creativity and dreams (ok, also nightmares, but this is human to). It’s our spirit in action. Art goes way back to our cave-man days. We are creative. Painting, sculpture, performance, installation.

It’s pleasure. It’s style. It’s investment. It’s status.

Which leads to the next question:

Why would I want to buy it? How much should I pay for it?


Step 1: Work out why you would like art.

For example: you may want… art can do all of these:

  • statement of your future and vision – symbol
  • color on the wall or to fill in a space – decoration
  • uplifts you, gets conversations started – inspiration
  • remind you of a holiday or a lovely experience – memory
  • look good, the glamor and status of having ‘art’ – image
  • make money – a financial investment

Step 2: Work out where you can get it

For example: you can get art from…

  • your family (maybe!)
  • shows/exhibitions/events
  • interior design
  • art galleries
  • artists

Go to galleries. Take a friend and explore. Find an opening and join in. Wear comfortable shoes. As a bonus, this is great exercise. You’ll get your 10,000 steps for the day done.

Online art galleries are now global. If you are interested in a piece, look at a large high resolution file. The thumb nail is not the same as the original. Just like a photo of your beloved is not the same as having them there with you. Online is a great way of finding the right piece that is not  in your  location.

Contact an artist you like directly. You can get a piece from their existing art or discuss ‘bespoke art’. This is art created by an artist with a particular person or organisation in mind.

Step 3: Research aka go take a look

At this stage, you are looking for:

Step 3a: what you like

Step 3b: where you can find it. + do you like the source

Step 3c: what it will take financially

This can be and is fun. Explore. Go to new places. Take a friend and have fun discussion what you see. Art is personal. So you’ll like some and hate others. It’s cool. Be social.

Art is sold in three ways. Most people invest in art through one of these:

  1. Artist  you get to see and hear about what’s behind the work, what else they have going on, what it takes to create that piece. You know it is genuine work.
  2. Gallery who represents the artist selling you directly. Convenient if you don’t know artists that you enjoy and value.
  3. Broker who buys art to sell when the price goes up. Some galleries operate this way.

Step 4:  Work out your budget/investment

Art is both an investment (it can be resold) and something you use through enjoyment. Art prices ranges hugely. From a tens of dollars to millions of dollars.

So why does the price range so much?

Many factors go into ‘why it costs what it does’. Here are the main elements:

  • The materials used
  • The time it takes to create
  • If it is unique – the concept
  •  If it is scarce – ie is there only 1 like this or are there 10? Or 500? Or can there be an unlimited number of copies of this?
  • It may be part of a series or standalone – a full set of a series has extra value
  • Is the artist established – works in galleries, shown internationally, in collections or museums?
  • If you are looking at it for you – that it speaks to you.
  • If you are looking at a financial investment: what the demand is? Will other people buy it – ie is there a market for it?

Some people care about technique – back in the day Gauguin painted on burlap in a rough style that was considered unfinished. These days, one of these is worth $300 million.

I bought a sketch from a well known artist for $2000 years ago. It’s worth $5000 more now. Art appreciates.

Step 5: Do it… get your art!

Pick the piece… it may be small, it may be huge. Pick the piece that gets you started. Where you feel. Oh, wow, I’m here with something that has meaning, magic and mystery.  This is what art is.

Have it packed for safe delivery

Step 6: Put it up on your wall, in your foyer etc and ENJOY

Prepare to have folk over and share your art.

Have your story ready… people always have their opinions… and they usually ask ‘What is it about’, ‘why do you like it’? Why did you pick these piece? What was happening in your life? What do you want from life beyond the artwork?

They’ll give you their opinion. They may even ask what you paid.

When I invest in art, I invest both emotionally in the meaning and story I have about it, and financially.  I recognise my own story about it. I share my story about the artwork like this:

  • This piece speaks to me because – may be it is the story of the painting/sculpture.It could be that it’s a brilliant reminder of a holiday.
  • When see it, it does xxx… eg makes me happy, reminds me to be courageous.
  • Then I ask them… what do they see… as we each see something different.

Do this and you’ll be a brilliant conversationalist, host and art appreciator!

Enjoy Art and your Investment,

Booth Aster © 2016