Inoculating companies against inaction, irrelevance, inflexibility and instability.

One Powerful Antigen :: Staff Departures

People leave their employers for many reasons. At any given time, up to 20% of the average company’s staff is preparing to leave. This could mean they are adjusting their resumes, searching online for other jobs, updating Linked In and sifting through Monster or Careerbuilder RSS feeds while you are paying them for their allegiance.

So if you have 1000 employees, 150 of them per year will quit for one reason or another. This is typically an ongoing cycle that most companies willingly accept for lack of understanding.

Now for the harsh reality. Multiply 150 annual staff departures by $13,500 which is the average cost to interview, hire, train and integrate an employee who makes $50,000/year.

That’s $2,0250,000 per year in HR costs because 150 people aren’t engaged, challenges or satisfied as they need to be.

Lack of employee engagement is one of the antigens in our database. This antigen costs the average 1000 person company over $2 million/year.

While we are building the antigen (lack of employee engagement) we are also building the antibody (deeper engaged employee loyalty) to counter effects of this killer.

If I were in charge of human capital or served in any HR function, this would demand some of my focus.

This is an example of what ANTIGENcy is hired to do.

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Designing Antigens = Scenario Planning

Okay, I have been chit chatting with a few poeple who’ve really helped me to round out this concept.

It comes down to this.

The work we are doing to isolate corporate antigens (these are largely threats to a company’s culture) and design antibodies for them to protect themselves is typically called scenario planning. That is designing/creating events that pose threats to a company’s human infrastructure and then helping them create adequate defenses.

It turns out this is done in many larger companies but under a much more conventional approach.

Our aim is to continue building these antigens and focus on companies who care about the following:

  1. building toward a more innovative workplace
  2. fostering creative energy within all points along the org chart hierarchy
  3. adopting design thinking as a means to complement management of the business
  4. building customer-centric teams trying to be more agile and strategic

In the coming weeks, we are going to begin using this site to introduce these antigens. Shortly thereafter, using an open source approach, we’d like to get ideas of more insights, ideas about both antigens and antibodies that are out there.

If you are a company that is already practicing this, we would like to hear from you. If you are a company that would like to begin prototyping a program, drop us a line.

Filed under: General

Someone named a realty office, Antigen Realty.

This was forwarded to me today. This is a realty outfit large enough to sponsor a NASCAR driver.  Huh.



Reminds me of the butter maker in Wisconsin called Merdes.

Filed under: General

Antigenic Shift/Drift

There are two really scary yet very real properties that transform antigens making them harder to identify, isolate and resolve. They are antigenic shift and antigenic drift.

Antigenic drift is when an antigen accumulates enough changes to evade immunity or vaccination. When there is a heavier than normal flu season, the CDC starts talking about antigenic shift. Like kicking off your flip flops to run from danger faster. Drift can account for subtle changes in the properties of an antigen to make an antibody less effective in battle. Some years, flu shots are wasted because the drift was significant enough to sneak past the vaccine.

Antigenic shift is really alarming to me. It is when two totally different strains combine to form a new super strain. Conceivably, avian strains could mix with sheep or swine strains to form a nasty and powerful strain the likes of which we’ve never seen let alone prepared for.

Look at any company through this metaphoric lens.

There are many moving parts in business…moving so fast, in fact, many people are unable to shift or respond when necessary. For example, Twitter or social media in a larger context mixed with a big hairy crisis and the business can have a really shifty antigen or strain on its hands. I can think of a good half dozen companies wishing they could do many things over again because they weren’t prepared for it, weren’t staffed for it, had no idea it was eating them alive and didn’t take it seriously after it had eviscerated their brand reputation. And even today, at least three of those big notable brands are still unsure what hit them and haven’t really assessed the damage, several months after the fact.

And when antigens change shape, the antibodies that are supposed to fight them, can’t… which allows the antigen to enter undetected and wreak havoc on healthy cells. And often, there is nothing able to stop the damage until it is either too late or more damage was done than was necessary.

The bottom line is that things change, or they mix with other things, and pose significant new mutated risks to companies. The plans in place to deal with these emerging risks are not always adequately suited to stem abrupt or punctuated change. The enterprise defenses need to be perpetually updated. Scenarios need to be created to help companies anticipate and outrun the antigens, create powerful antibodies to defend the corpus and to allow its people to focus on moving forward instead of repairing.

This updating, scenario planning and outrunning  is what ANTIGENcy is working on.

Filed under: Properties of Antigens, , , , ,

I am having fun creating these antigens.

You know, for as preposterous as it sounds to do what I am doing, I haven’t run into anyone yet that has called me out or told me that I am a complete fool. Most the folks that I share this idea with are intrigued, cock their head a little to the side and then again intrigued. Perhaps their just holding it in.

In the simplest terms, I am focused on isolating destructive “strains” affecting companies. I am starting on the interior and will work my way out to the exterior in the next few months. Once I have begun a map of the these strains in isolation, I will begin to craft specific antigens and then antibodies that address these strains.

The bottom line is that I really feel like this is an approach that has legs. I believe that we need to begin looking at evolutionary biology as a metaphor to help us manage change. As things become more networked and socialized, it will be through these biological metaphors that we understand how to manage the lightening-speed growth of business evolution.

In the coming weeks I will be fleshing it out more and talking to folks in both the traditional management consulting space and the bio-sciences space to firm the concept up more. I feel like an idiot as I dive deeper into this as I am neither a management consultant or a biologist. I’m just a guy with an idea.

This is the most fun I have had at work in years. I am absolutely flabbergasted.

Filed under: General

What ANTIGENcy will do…

We inoculate business against inaction, irrelevance, inflexibility and instability. We start it at the top (executive) level and the bottom (employee) level and work toward the center to gain consensus on problems and possibilities.

We use what is traditionally called “Design Thinking” to both get to the core of the problems and find the best possibilities.

If your looking for the following, we would like to talk to you about an alternative approach.

  1. strategic consulting
  2. business model design
  3. innovation management
  4. change management
  5. organization architecture
  6. brand strategy
  7. positioning
  8. design strategy
  9. culture change
  10. digital transformation

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Here is what ANTIGENcy is trying…

Agencies have always worked in one direction. Offense.
To use compelling and memorable stories to influence some action that benefits a brand.
To succeed, and cut through the noise, the stories are getting better and louder. Mostly, its entertaining. Where will that end? How sustainable is it?

ANTIGENcy adds a defensive dimension to the offensive.
ANTIGENcy was formed on the premise that companies and brands can grow stronger by protecting themselves from emergent internal and external threats.
ANTIGENcy is about creating change, strengthening the culture, abandoning stuff that isn’t helping businesses anymore.
ANTIGENcy helps create the change that builds brands and protects from the agents that cause harm.
ANTIGENcy is the stuff you’ve never heard of that can keep your brand alive by growing your strategic defenses.

Filed under: About ANTIGENcy,

ANTIGENcy is an experiment.

Last week I stopped working as the Executive Vice President of Strategy at a well-respected and good-sized independent communications firm in Raleigh. At that post, I was a consultant working on big project strategy, organizational development, design thinking, design strategy and culture change.

I am now taking that experience and trying something new based on what many of my clients wanted throughout my engagements. Something different, more transparent, more accessible and without all the budgetary inflexibility.

I am creating ANTIGENcy. Both an anti-agency and a corporate antigen.

I think it can be different by virtue of not doing what conventional consulting practices do. Not charging the fees they charge and being a little more open and accessible. And it can be successful by virtue of protecting a company’s defenses. That is what we plan to accomplish.

Let’s see if it works.

Filed under: General