BRAIN FOOD: Mike Harris - Speaking out - Executive Vice-Chairman, EGG

BRAIN FOOD: Mike Harris - Speaking out - Executive Vice-Chairman, EGG - Every working day, 20 of the 2,000 employees at Egg are asked to come up with innovative ideas; every month, at least 100 are involved, and eventually all staff are canvassed. So says

by KHALID AZIZ, chairman of spoken communications specialist theAziz Corporation - www.azizcorp.com
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Every working day, 20 of the 2,000 employees at Egg are asked to come up with innovative ideas; every month, at least 100 are involved, and eventually all staff are canvassed. So says Mike Harris, executive vice-chairman of the personal services company plucked from under the skirts of parent Prudential.

He was addressing HR professionals at a leadership symposium on innovation at the Science Museum, London. He told of how Egg was born - or should I say 'laid'? - out of the realisation that personal banking margins, already at 2.5%, were heading south to just 1%, where, by his own admission, it was difficult to survive. Today, Egg is regarded as a great survivor of the dot.com frenzy.

Harris is passionate and appears genuinely to believe what he preaches, although at times he is a little too strategic and high-level for my liking.

We could have done with more examples to buoy up what was, at times, a somewhat leaden content. A number of times he uttered: 'Don't ask me how I/we do it. I guess it's just intuitive.' Sorry, Mike - the reason people pay good money to come to such events is to hear people who have done it explain how they did it.

But his outlawing of two questions that no-one at Egg is allowed to ask did move me. 'What went wrong?' and 'Who's to blame?' are replaced by 'How can we learn from this?'. Amen to that.

Key moment: The assertion that the traditional corporate environment is the worst place for an idea to come to fruition.

Key lesson: Weave a thread of examples through your presentation to add zest.

Silver tongue.

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