Broccoli project scoops two prizes

The Broccoli Project, the rewards programme for the poor that I wrote about recently, walked away with the 2nd prize in Hit Barcelona’s Global Entrepreneurship Competition this past week. Spanish company Bmat won first prize.

The Broccoli Project also won the award for “best social value” walking away with total prize money of 25 000 euros to fund their activities. Whether they attracted support from venture capitalists attending the event remains to be seen.

Launching their updated website last week (, Marc Anthony Zimmerman, founder and CEO of the project thanked the numerous supporters that had enabled them to get to Barcelona and to win the award.

Vitality and Voyager-like rewards for the poor

The Broccoli Project, an innovative scheme created by Marc Anthony Zimmerman, offers rewards to the poor in exchange for socially beneficial behaviour. Zimmerman, a successful social entrepreneur was inspired by CK Prahalad’s book, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid. He explains that while the rich are offered numerous incentives through reward schemes, there is nothing similar for the poor. The project works by linking activities such as taking HIV tests to reward vouchers.

The Broccoli project was nominated by Andrea Bohmert of Hasso Plattner Ventures for the regional Global Entrepreneurship Competition run by the City of Cape Town. The project won that competition and the prize of a fully paid entry into the World Innovation Summit in Barcelona (called HiT Barcelona) taking place from the 17th to 19th June. Along with competing for a prize of 50 000 euros, the project will be presented in front of some of the worlds leading venture capitalists who are looking for enterprises to fund.

The scheme follows well-researched projects like the Conditional Cash Transfers in Latin America and more recently New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Opportunity NYC programme. The former programmes have reported a substantial decline in poverty among programme participants.

An issue with these programmes is their high administrative costs which the Broccoli project aims to keep to a minimum using fingerprint technology and barcoded vouchers. Based on the many incentive and loyalty programmes targeting the rich, participants are treated as adults able to make their own decisions about their behaviours. This is a world apart from a handout which has been the traditional way to help the poor.

Vouchers received for positive behaviours such as encouraging attendance of skills-development workshops, staying in school, preventing disease and taking medication can be redeemed at a national retailer for food. In addition to the rewards, anybody can buy and give vouchers which guarantees that a handout at a traffic light turns into a basic food staple such as bread, milk, maize meal or vegetables.

The Broccoli Project is already operational and has been working with a number of organisations including the Desmond Tutu HIV/Aids Foundation. A short news clip from CNBC Africa highlights the benefits of the programme and how it works.

With Zimmerman on his way to Barcelona this weekend, you can support their chances in the global competition by entering a comment which counts as a vote of support for their project.

As Broccoli says on its website “When last did you get the opportunity to make a real, meaningful difference that could literally change the world? And all you had to do was click a button. Vote for The Broccoli Project to win at the World Innovation Summit.”

Conscious Incompetence

Elizabeth Kubler Ross describes our learning going through four stages

  • Unconscious Incompetence (i.e. we don’t know what we don’t know)
  • Conscious Incompetence (i.e. we now know that we don’t know)
  • Conscious Competence (i.e. we are competent but only if we are paying attention)
  • Unconscious Competence (i.e. we are competent and don’t even need to think about it)

Whenever I explain this to clients I use the example of driving a car as it is a pretty universal experience and allows us to easily understand the four stages above. My kindergarten daughter is blissfully unaware that there is such a thing as learning to drive a car and she is not aware that she is incompetent when it comes to driving a car.

This will all change when she turns 17, and starts to practice towards her drivers licence. She will quickly realise, or become conscious, that she is incompetent in the area of driving and will need to practice in order to become competent.

At the point where she is driving, perhaps still with some supervision, she will be consciously competent. Competent in driving but having to concentrate and think about what she is doing. ‘Push the clutch in, change the gear, turn the corner’ – all very conscious and deliberate steps hence conscious competence.

Once she has been driving for a few years she will forget all about that and like most people who have driven for a while will reach a stage where if asked a question such as ‘what gear where you in when you turned the corner?’ would probably look blankly at the questioner because the act of driving has become completely unconscious.

If you think about it, you’ll find that whenever you learn something new you go through this process. From working on a computer to public speaking, it starts unconscious, becomes consciously uncomfortable and with practice gets more comfortable and less conscious.

I posted about my experiences in the cockpit (Learning to Fly – October 2007) where I went through this process and this last week I had a similar experience. I asked a swim coach at my gym to look at my stroke and give me some advice.

I think I’m a reasonable swimmer. I swam 1:08 in the Ironman last year which I was happy with. After 10 minutes in the pool this week, I realised how much more I could learn. I wasn’t maximizing my stroke at the end, pushing back with my hand as I’m reaching forward with my other hand. My kicking was a bit erratic and could be harder. I was breathing on every 3rd stroke and was recommended to breath on every 5th. And lastly I wasn’t reaching far enough forward with my arms.

Within 20 minutes of trying out these new techniques, I could see that I could improve – tangible evidence was 16 strokes across the pool instead of 20/22 when I started. However, I did feel a bit like a swimming klutz. I couldn’t get my feet to kick at the same time as breathing and while I was concentrating on getting one thing right, the others would slip. This as a result of becoming conscious about my incompetence.

I found it incredibly humbling and I am very thankful that I can still learn new things. In fact I find it incredibly exciting that I could become a better swimmer in my 40’s than I ever was in my teens. I always thought I was late developer. Yoga is a bit like that. My teacher for many year Ysette Myers used to always say she was only a beginner despite having taught yoga for 27 years.

My other insight was that it’s impossible to get to the unconscious competence stage without first moving through the other stages. Some of them may go quicker but I need to master them all before I can really call myself competent.


Isn’t it interesting how we so often take on negative feedback much easier than positive feedback. My partner Paddy and I facilitated a couple of days with a large corporate client a couple of months back and at the end of it we scanned through the evaluation forms to get a general feeling of how we had done.

What was amazing is that both of us got hooked on the three forms that expressed something slightly critical about ourselves as facilitators. We started making up stories about how this could be so and decided we could have done better and we weren’t as focused as we should have been and…

Hang on – what about the 96% positive comments that people had filled in. Oh – they probably missed our faults so we shouldn’t listen to them.

Makes me wonder how much of the world’s negativity I allow to influence my own belief in my self.

Story of Stuff

I had a look at Annie Leonard’s video, The Story of Stuff today and was amazed at some of the facts and figures and the perspective that she offers. She basically walks us through the cycle of the consumer economy and with a few digs at the US government and corporates shares the stark facts and figures of our current reality. A bit like a lesser researched “Inconvenient Truth”. She’s not going to win the Nobel Peace prize but she has done an excellent first take at simplifying the overall picture and showing how we contribute to the environmental challenges we now face.

At a point she mentions retailing analyst Victor Lebow who when talking about how to rebuild the American economy after world war two suggested, “Our enormously productive economy … demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption…. we need things consumed, burned up, replaced, and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate.”

At the time President Eisenhower’s council of economic advisors chairman stated: “The American economy’s ultimate purpose is to produce more consumer goods.” Not better health care, education, housing, transportation, or recreation or less poverty and hunger, but providing more stuff to consumers.

Not really surprising, we find ourselves where we are. It’s going to be fun if we all aspire to live like American’s although I think many of us have moved on over the last few years and raised our goals.

The video is beneficial for anyone wondering what all the fuss is about recycling and climate change and why we should be concerned about it as individuals. If you’re into this theme then you must have a look the book Hope for the Flowers written in 1972 by Trina Paulus. She does a magnificent job of illustrating the futility of the rat race.

As my friend Paddy says, “even if you win the rat race – you’re still a rat”

The Story of Stuff is available as a web stream or is downloadable from the web site.

Problems and Creations

I love the work of Robert Fritz who wrote The Path of Least Resistance which is all about finding our creativity. Fritz is a musician. He contrasts the composer of music to our lives asking if a composer about to embark on a great work looks for a problem to solve. No she builds a picture in her mind of a beautiful end result and then starts with a blank sheet of paper filling in the gaps between the current reality and the picture in her mind.

In a recent newsletter Fritz quotes Carl Jung as saying:

“All the greatest and most important problems of life are fundamentally insoluble… They can never be solved, but only outgrown. This “outgrowth” proved on further investigation to require a new level of consciousness. Some higher or wider interest appeared on the patient’s horizon, and through this broadening of his or her outlook the insoluble problem lost its urgency. It was not solved logically in its own terms but faded when confronted with a new and stronger life urge.”

I love this quote because it ties in so well with the work I have done using scenarios in Executive Coaching. Scenarios are a bit like chess, you can learn how to work with them in a few minutes but it will take a lifetime to become a master of your own scenarios.

One of the seminal works on coaching is John Whitmore’s Coaching for Performance. He has just released an updated version of his book and I’d say that it is the work that best represents my thinking about coaching. Whitmore is the originator of the GROW model for coaching. GROW stands for:

Reality or current reality
What are you going to do?

As with most powerful models, it is very simple. It is powerful in that it is a process that can be followed by individuals either on their own or with a coach. I find it useful for myself and also when working with the most senior executives.

Goal’s are self explanatory and when that is contrasted with the current Reality you have what Robert Fritz calls “structural tension”. There is tension between where I would like to be and where I am now. This is the starting point for creation.

Fritz differentiates between problem thinking and creative thinking. Unfortunately most of the world works in problem / solution mode where we see something as a problem and then set about fixing it. With this approach our level of thinking doesn’t ever raise above the level of the problem.

With creative thinking we get clear (or as clear as possible) on what our future vision is, acknowledge where we are currently and then allow our brain to kick in and find solutions drawing from a creative universe which is far greater than simply attempting to resolve a problem.

Options are the scenarios for our lives. We know what we will get if we continue with our current course. If we project forward three years, is this where we want to be? What are the biggest uncertainties we face and how do they influence the possible future stories for our lives. We are now in the creative zone where the structural tension can be released.

The What brings the process back to earth by asking, “What will you do differently now that your awareness is broader?”

This is the process of personal growth.

So in which areas of your life do you need to CREATE new solutions?

Why do we need coaching?

Many people have asked me about the phenomenal growth of coaching and why it is so in demand today. I believe that it is symbolic of the world we live in.

I remember sitting in Namibia more than 20 years ago and watching the local tribes getting together at the end of the day. They would sit in a circle around a barrel of Mohango Beer and while they sipped the beer they would tell each other the stories of the day. In doing so, they would listen to each other and offer insights from their own experiences.

The elders of the tribe played an important role as they had more life experience. They could offer suggestions and ask wise questions that would support people in coming up with answers for their problems.

The tribe also celebrated the successes of the day and shared in all the stories that made up their common experience.

Now in my particular neck of the woods, we don’t do too much of that. We are too busy running around from one appointment to the next and very seldom have time to sit down and have a meaningful conversation.

Enter Executive Coaching.

What better way to have a meaningful conversation than to pay somebody who is trained and is well equipped to listen, ask insightful questions, celebrate our successes and challenge us on our thinking. Welcome to the 21st century version of the tribal meeting.

The world today is very disconnected and we seldom have meaningful interactions. I often explain that for an executive in a large corporation there are not many people with whom to have a meaningful conversation.

My own experience was that you can’t talk to your peers because everyone is trying to keep up appearances or vying for a promotion. Showing vulnerability in any way is a sure way of being ridiculed.

You can’t talk to your boss because she is expecting you to hit your numbers and deliver what you promised to deliver. Any conversation outside of that is going to be tricky unless you have one of the few enlightened bosses around.

And you can’t really tell your staff that you’re feeling a bit unsure about the 3rd quarter target – because you’re on their backs to hit the target in the first place.

So where do we go with our insecurities. We could talk to husbands and wives but then even they have a vested interest. My wife may well understand that I’m struggling to perform at work, but in the back of her mind she is probably more concerned with how you are going to pay those private school fees and she may not be as understanding as I’d hope.

Not to make it all negative, there are also the triumphs and celebrations which are often so absent from the everyday business world.

Against that backdrop, it is not really surprising that Executive Coaching is growing in leaps and bounds. It represents the one Oasis in a desert of insincerity.

The danger is becoming dependent on your coach for your fix of sincerity. Which leaves me with the question I believe we all need to answer, which is: “How do we use an executive coach to build other meaningful relationships in our work life?”

Playing to your strengths

One of the things I have really enjoyed learning about in my executive coaching has been positive psychology and in particular Gallup’s Strengthsfinder. I recently wrote an article on the Performance Zone site which looks at focusing on strengths for business and sports people.

The most amazing thing for me was a 1925 study which inspired Gallup’s initial research. The study was conducted by Elizabeth Hurlock and was published in the journal of Education Psychology. In a very controlled study she found that students who were praised for their good work in a maths class improved performance by 71%, in comparison to to only 19% improvement in the group that was criticized.

Based on that research, Gallup came up with the hypothesis:

Both individuals and organisations have more potential for growth in areas of strength than in areas of weakness.

My experience both with executive clients and with my young children and family members is that this is true. What is challenging is that it so often feels easier to find fault than to find all the positives. But then finding the positives is a lot more fun. I’m fortunate in that my coach and mentor, Richard Oxtoby, is such a powerful model of this.

If you’re interested in more information about Strengthsfinder and how to take the test to see what your top strengths are then you can find more details about the book and the test at Amazon.