THE INVALUABLE INVESTMENT OF COMPANY CONFERENCES

As the recent global economic crisis tightened its grip across the globe, the business travel segment found itself grounded. Business trips cancelled, conferences cancelled, incentive trips cancelled, exhibitions downsized, meetings re-e-engineered, hopes for making targets cancelled.

There was simply no budget, no justification, no nerve, no hope. Too many black ink cartridges were being replaced with red. It was a clear situation of black and white – until the crisis was over travel was suspended. There was no grey area.

Understanding the logic, e-alternatives were found. ‘Skype’ became both a noun and verb. Expectations were adjusted around movements of the bottom line and the business cycle. No one was going anywhere.

But making sense of it all did not make it any easier. We are not a generation comfortable with prolonged restrictions to comfort of lifestyle. The crisis of 2008/9, and its hangover of caution throughout 2010, has been the first time such financial strain of this degree has ever been felt by billions across the globe.

But the crisis has not just been financial, it has been emotional. The fear generated by the world’s fastest spreading, widest reaching and deepest penetrating economic shutdown has rattled the spirits of people across the world. A bankruptcy of faith and confidence occurred, causing a crash in the energy required to perform.

And, importantly, a crash in the value of business culture.

The arrival of Q2/2010 has, however, brought with it a return in business confidence levels. And with that a return of people on the move. The seats in the pointy end of the plane are warming up again. As are meeting rooms, conference halls and spirits. Justification of un-suspending spend is now all around. Clearly being grounded hurt business. Now is the time to get back to 35,000ft to get back into the black.

Supporting this hypothesis, a study undertaken by Oxford Economics in 2009 revealed, painfully, that over all the average US business would be forced to lose 17% of profits (28% of revenues) during the first year of suspension of business travel. This loss would require a three year period to recover. Bottom line.

But intuitively businesses across the globe have also known that the losses were not just at a commercial level, they were also at a cultural level. The freezing of budgets which froze internal activity, company conferences in particular, froze spirits.

Which is why visionary leaders, truly holistic leaders who put into practice the adage of ‘our people are our greatest asset’, are remaking commitments and rebooking venues to reconnect their people. Instruction from the C-suite is seeing hundreds of people being removed from their offices, relocated (often at enormous cost and logistical complexity) to places which allow the start of a strong tomorrow to start today.

Importantly, effective conference programme design is not only about sharing business plans and prophecies. Of equal importance, if not greater, is sharing of the process of rebuilding faith, rebuilding a future vision, and rebuilding the fundamental bonds of the organisation.

It is about cultural reconnection. And creating that reconnection may require letting people let go. Safely. It has been a long time of holding one’s breath. Now is the time to exhale deeply. Together.

This process, whether it unlocks laughter, tears or fears, will ultimately unlock the spirits of those present. And in so doing, create an energy of renewal, recovery, rediscovery and release – a release which will raise the level of confidence, conviction and commitment of the company culture.

There can be no greater fuel for future impact, no greater feeling of achievement for a true leader.

This article is dedicated to the courageous leaders across the globe who, with their visionary eyes and open hearts, recognise investment into their people at this fragile, faith-rebuilding, future-redefining time as invaluable.

To you a glass is raised with thanks, with immense respect, and in confident anticipation. Not only do you know the above to be true, you feel it… and you live it.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2010


THE NEW BUTTERFLY EFFECT – HONOURING THE RESPONSIBILITY OF HAVING A GLOBAL E-VOICE


The world in which we live today often feels as though it is moving at a speed far faster, and fired up with far more energy, than ever before. Events are unfolding with seemingly greater intensity. And having a greater global impact. Extreme situations are becoming extremely familiar. The drama of daily life is appearing everywhere, every day, every time one looks at a TV, computer or mobile screen.

How has this happened?

One of the reasons for the hyper-acceleration of happenings is the hyper-activity of social media commentary.

Where once news networks were relied on for information and insight, public opinion has gained unprecedented power. Immediately, as an event occurs, it is captured, analysed, shared. Through images and text the simple flapping of the wings of a butterfly on one part of the world can cause an immediate storm a world away. And a flurry of commentary around what happened: why the butterfly chose to flap his little wings at that precise moment, in that precise location. Precisely what did he mean by it?

Connections are being made, between people, places and points in time. And voices across the globe are sharing their opinions with global audiences.

All it takes is the click of a ‘SEND’ button and thought can become thought leadership.
It is truly remarkable and empowering that one is now able to share ideas, information and opinions across borders, across cultures and across ideologies across the world. For millions it is life changing. Enablement has occurred through e-connectivity. And with it has come social and economic freedom.

The power which comes from the SEND button can, however, be overwhelming. The temptation to ‘tell us what you think‘ and know that the world is reading can be too great to pass up. Particularly when one holds a position of leadership, be it political, private business or as a recognised personality. Fifteen keystrokes of fame.

And how seductive the invitation to engage when it comes to sharing opinion in open e-forum when voices are united in critique, with growing numbers of followers and growing flames of fiery opinion.

Sadly, often, momentum of opinion sharing takes on a life of its own. Words shift from helpful critique to hurtful criticism. A common enemy breeds heated commentary. The messenger and the message become confused. The need for a moment of pause and consideration of impact is lost.

SEND.

And before you know it your name is sent into cyberspace, attached to words which will eternally appear in any Google or Bing search ever conducted on your name…

For all the possibility which has been created through the global connectivity which now characterises the times in which we live (and share), the responsibility of this power of opinion must never be forgotten.

To hit the SEND button is to leave an e-fingerprint in history. Together these fingerprints can build unity of community of thought and positive impact. Sadly, however, so too can it create ever-embedded negativity.
The butterfly effect has taken on a whole new meaning in our new world of global opinions.

Importantly, however, just as the butterfly never loses sight of the effect the flutter of his wings can have on the world around him, he maintains a healthy perspective regarding his place in the world. Tiny, beautiful, essential…and potentially powerful.

So too must we never lose sight of the impact of our opinions. And responsibility we hold for the impact of flapping our wings each time we hit the ‘SEND’ key.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2010


MAJOR EVENTS – DEFINING THE ‘WHAT NEXT?’

In a matter of days the world’s largest sports event will come to a close. 2010 FIFA World Cup champions will be crowned, fans will blow their vuvuzelas in unison of tens of thousands one last time, stadiums will empty, the media will switch channels, athletes and travellers will go home. The FIFA World Cup lens will move to Brasil. South Africa, the host nation, will resume regular programming.

And the hangover of 30 days of football festivities will set in.

It has already started, actually. Following the first of two Semi-Finals in one of the nation’s three major host cities, the morning after the night before for Cape Town is still, silent, sad. There is a feeling of it’s over.

The hang-over is being felt not just by fans celebrating Holland’s success in securing a place in the Finals (or commiserating Uruguay’s not), but by the people of the host city. It is time to turn the lights out in the city’s new, iconic stadium graced by the backdrop of Table Mountain and encircling sea. That feeling of sadness will soon take over Durban as the host city braces itself for their hosting of the second Semis this evening, and then the moment of turning off the lights in their beautiful new stadium.

Magnification of this feeling, this sadness, will hit a crescendo as the Finals are played. While there will be (already is) immense pride felt by South Africans across the country and world in the successful hosting of the Games, tears of good-bye will fall for not only departing fans, but for closure of a dream.

The man has landed on the moon. The vision has been realised. And whichever team takes home the FIFA Word Cup, the people of the host nation would passionately argue that it is South Africa which won.

But what now? What next? What after the moon?

What can we expect?

Hosting of major events come with them immense expectations – expectations of delivery, expectations of accountability, and expectations of transformation. Especially economically.

But the reality is this: 30 days of sport cannot transform, sustainably, a national economy. It is simply not possible.

What is possible, and more meaningful, is the transformation which can occur in national confidence.

There is no question that through successful hosting of this mega-event the confidence which exists in South Africa has grown exponentially across the people of the world and across the people of the nation. And of great importance, of potential investors.

Confidence is a currency, especially for nations emerging as new forces of social and economic development on the global stage. It is a critical fuel for the growth and development of nations. And it is this currency which must be sought out as a key deliverable when mega-events are executed by nations.

By showing the world ‘we can do it‘, nations taking on global event challenges (ie. Beijing with the 2008 Olympics, South Africa with the 2010 World Cup, India with the 2010 Commonwealth Games and others), are able to showcase proof of delivery and strong ROI.

But this confidence needs to be channeled, with absolute clarity, towards a ‘what next’ – the new vision, the next planet to reach. Because to conclude a mega-event with simply good-byes and a headache would be to shortchange a dream.

So important to sustainable mega-event success is the host nation having ready a ‘what next’ – a post-event development plan which uses as capital all that has just been achieved, qualitatively and quantitatively (and naturally aligns to the long-term national development strategy).

Developing a ‘what next’, and overtly communicating it to the nation immediately following completion of a mega-event, ensures ROI of host nation/city investment is realised through
leveraging, long after the event concludes, newly established:

  • memory of success,
  • confidence in delivery,
  • unity of national spirit,
  • commitment to building the nation,
  • participation on the global stage, and
  • desire for investment into hard and soft infrastructure of the future

towards fulfilling a new vision.

To look up to the moon is not only about setting one’s eyes on a place higher and brighter, it is about holding one’s chin up with pride. And powerful conviction. Every single day.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2010

TOURISM INVESTMENT: WHAT IF WE HADN’T?

In just over one hour the first whistle will blow on the 2010 FIFA WORLD CUP in South Africa. Finally, following 12 years of visioning, 6 years of organisation, an estimated US$ 4 billion in direct capital investment, selection of 32 international teams, and millions of man-hours of preparations, KE NAKO – it’s time!

And for 49 million people, with the world watching alongside, a life-long dream will come true.

For South Africa the hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup has been a remarkable project. Packaged as an international Mega-event, the 2010 Games are the greatest single injection of investment the nation has seen since its liberation in 1994. A national upgrade programme, the 2010 Games demanded that the country get to work, ensuring that the fundamentals were well in place to host the largest, most watched sporting event on Earth. Estimates of investment levels vary – there are as many projections as opinions.

SA2010.GOV.ZA predicted in late 2009: “Before adding new stadiums in Cape Town and Durban, the original estimate was $295 million. Don’t be surprised it at the end of the day, it’s a lot more than the £3.7 billion.”

In early 2010 the Government’s total contribution to infrastructure and stadiums stood at R17.4 billion. Of this:

  • R9 billion was allocated towards transport and supporting infrastructure
  • R8,4 billion funded the building of five new World Cup stadiums and the upgrading another five

In addition to World Cup infrastructure projects, funding has also been channeled towards non-infrastructure projects – sports and recreation programmes, arts and culture programmes, policing, emergency medical services and telecommunications upgrades. The source of these massive funds? The people of South Africa, through the National government, though these will be supplemented by contributions from provincial government, local government and other private sector and investment partners.

Immense amounts of investment, in a nation hungry for the foundations of a nation in rebuilding mode.

So why make such an investment into what could be simply a tourism event? Why not hospitals, and schools, and utilities? Why this, now? Why, where there are so many risks of “I told you so!” if something goes wrong?

Because of what we will build beyond 2010, once the Games have ended, champions been crowned, fans departed and stadium lights turned off. We know there will be red ink when it comes time to balance expenses vs. earnings. The global economic recession, troubles with games and airline tickets, accommodation challenges. There will be losses. There will be questions re. viability. There will be questions re. R.O.I.

But there is one more important question which a nation needs to ask when weighing up the pros and cons of massive Tourism investment, especially in Mega-Events:

“WHAT IF WE HADN’T?”

Think about it. What if, on May 15th, 2004, South Africa had not been awarded 2010 World Cup host nation status?

Or if Beijing had not been awarded hosting of the 2008 Olympic Games?

Or India the 2010 Commonwealth Games?

What would we see? Today, six years on, would we actually see any difference to the day before?

And considering the job and earnings losses caused by the global economic crisis, would we have endured had we not had the 2010 Games to deliver on?

As recently expressed by Dr Laurine Platzky, Deputy Director-General, 2010 FIFA World Cup Coordinator in the Department of the Premier, in the Western Cape (home of host city Cape Town) in a speech at the book launch of the new, iconic CT Stadium:

“Imagine if we had not had the World Cup. Would we by now have housed and employed all the people in the city? Would we, with all those billions spent on the World Cup, instead have educated all our children, fed the hungry and restructured our city – probably not because we would still have been arguing on how to do it all. Forgive me but without a tight deadline, budget and dedicated teams of skilled people, structural change is not possible. Nothing like time and money to focus the mind. “

What if we hadn’t?

  • What would our streets look like?
  • What would our airports, stadia, telecomms, security and transport systems look like?
  • What would our society look like?
  • How would our future be different?

And importantly…

  • How would the world look at us?
  • How would we look at ourselves?
  • And how would we feel when we look at our flag?

The calculation of the ROI of Tourism Investment, be it a major event, a major development or a major campaign, includes a number of metrics. And not all of them are numbers, quantitative, black & white.

The challenges are leverage, legacy and linkages. And they are for each and every national to make ‘work’ to ensure that the Games truly work for the nation.

To soundbyte South Africa at this precise moment would be a cocktail of the deafening sound of the vuvuzelas, the magnificent flashes of colour from the waving flags, the pure tears of anticipation as the clock counts down, the global headlines already announcing South Africa’s readiness to welcome the world…and the world’s readiness to welcome South Africa. And there is still one hour before kick-off of Game #1.

These are the moments which inspire belief, inspire relook, inspire future visitation, inspire confidence in the possibility of growth and development, and inspire future investment.

They are not defining moments, they are RE-defining moments.

But what if South Africa hadn’t?

It’s hard to even imagine.
Just as the feeling in the hearts of South Africans, here in South Africa and across the world, right now, could ever have been.

It’s time!


Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2010

THE SPILL-OVER OF OUR EFFORTS


Aerial views of the world are always so incredibly inspiring. A wide-angle lens has the ability to turn our world into a textural canvas of wonder. A spectrum of colour arranged in combinations reflecting both courage and care in creation, looking ‘at’ soon turns to looking ‘within’. Blues dancing with greens, browns breaking through bands of white. Mountain ranges, seascapes, cloud formations, carpets of desert, endless beauty. Together these are the landscapes which form the greater masterpiece of the globe. Such views inspire vision, inspire faith, inspire respect and appreciation. To see the world in its pure, untouched glory inspires the purest of smiles.

Though sadly, at this very moment an aerial view of the world – the Gulf of Mexico in particular – would inspire a desire to look away. First in shock. Then in sadness. Ultimately in quiet shame.

Over a once-perfect canvas, blues now are broken by clawing bands of black, darkness swallowing up the bright. Each and every day the claws of blackness are reaching wider, creeping nearer and nearer to the green.

It started just over twenty days ago. A massive oil rig commissioned by a massive international oil company seeking energy to feed the world’s massive hunger for black gold set out on a massive operation. A small black dot of an event on the regional map, indistinguishable by the naked eye. Out of the blue an explosion lit the sky with towering flames of red and smoke clouds of black. Something had gone horribly wrong. Initial calculations – eleven lives lost. The ache life changing for all involved: families, colleagues, onlookers.

Such loss of man in man’s quest for what more there is to be found. All that was left were endless flows of tears.

And then the spillover of the tragedy – it was not only tears flowing. So too was crude oil. Massive amounts of it, oozing out from a leak in a pipe on the floor of the Gulf, flooding oil straight into the Gulf of Mexico, unstoppably. And with it, more loss of life. Little lives – feathery lives, furry lives, jelly lives, shelled lives, tens of thousands of little lives. Lives lost which broke through the corporate oil company headlines and made it possible for the world to not only see the impact of our efforts to master the world, but to feel the impact.

At this stage, over three weeks on, calculations are unattainable as the impact of the spill is exponential. Current estimates state up to 200 gallons per day, and still leaking. Ominous black dread. The costs have been, and continue to be, massive. The black spot on our waters unforgiving, untamable, unstoppable.

One of the reasons for the inability to calculate the damage has been the ever-growing increase in the number of spheres of impact, including:

Obviously, from the accident itself:

  • Losses of Oil, from the leak
  • Losses of Revenue, from the wasted oil
  • Losses of Money, from the clean-up
  • Losses of corporate Brand equity

But more importantly, from the growing oil slick and contamination of waters:

  • Losses of Aquaculture
  • Losses of Tourism industry activity
  • Losses of Natural Environment
  • Losses of Earnings and Jobs, of those dependent on the Gulf for livelihoods
  • Losses of Political focus, from the emergence of crisis
  • Losses of federal Funds, diverted towards clean-up efforts and compensation / support / economic restimulation of those places effected


Sadly this catastrophe has begun to show signs of a campaign, even before there are signs of repair and recovery. In the US it is being referred to as “Obama’s Katrina”. Creative questions have been raised regarding whether this was in fact a conspiracy. Sadly such creativity of thought in the political space is not being applied where it is most desperately needed – in the scientific space seeking solutions urgently required to stop the leak, contain the spill and save the Gulf. And seeking safe, truly sustainable forms of energy, for the better of all lives, including the little, voiceless ones.

As Ted Turner, the courageous and visionary founder of CNN, recently questioned in an interview with the network: how is it possible that on the same day that we launch a rocket into space we cannot plug the hole?

Because soon, in the thick of all of the oil globules sinking to the bottom of the Gulf and in the thick of all of the debate regarding blame, the little heartbeats of the little lives underwater will stop…all while the oil continues to flow.

Ultimately, the events in the Gulf of Mexico poses a critical question: when it comes to sustainable energy, where should we be applying our energies?

From every direction the current situation in the Gulf of Mexico it is an absolute mess. Industrially, politically, economically, socially, philosophically, environmentally. An aerial view alone shows what a profound dark spot this mess will leave on our record as a civilisation seeking to find a better way to create the future, to move forward.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2010