Tag Archives: talent

Webby Awards Interview about Talent & Meaningful Work

The Webby Awards run a pretty fantastic series of interviews as part of their Webby Connect Series. I was lucky enough to be selected for an interview, the transcript of which is below. You can see the original article here.

Greatest Good is an online community where experts in various fields volunteer their time and experience to startup-founders, business owners, or anyone who needs consulting. Greatest Good donates 100% of each advisor’s booking fee to the charity of his or her choice.

We connected with Saneel to discuss why you don’t need to work for a non-profit to have a career with meaning.

Tell us about your journey to founding Greatest Good: Your professional background was primarily in marketing and tech. What led you to enter the non-profit sector?

Having collected an eclectic mix of professional experience from creative direction to digital strategy to organizational management, I was frustrated I wasn’t able to use these skills to actively help support causes I cared about. They simply don’t need what it is I do on any typical day. Ironically, although my time was highly valued in the corporate world, that same amount of time was significantly less valuable in the eyes of bootstrapping non-profits.

This inefficiency of exchange in the volunteerism economy is something I realized many other professionals likely felt too. After conversations with many people I respect, I realized I wanted to make a platform to help convert that corporate time into something valuable to non-profits. A few months later, Greatest Good was born. Now, these Advisors donate their time via video chat to people or companies looking for their expert opinion. In exchange, those companies agree to donate money to the charity of the Advisor’s choice.

Greatest Good relies on “Advisors,” or thought leaders who are willing to donate their time and expertise in order to help individuals and businesses that could benefit from it. How do you get these “Advisors” to commit? Has that been difficult?

We’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response from potential Advisors. So many professionals today have causes they actively care about and want to support in ways beyond writing checks. Now they can put their time to use by being the experts they already are in a way that supports their favorite charity.

I’ve even reached out to people I don’t know personally, but with whom I would definitely pay to video chat with. For example, Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic is a writer, researcher, and thinker whose work I read and admire. I sent him an unsolicited email and got a reply within a few minutes. He’s now on the platform supporting a very cool non-profit called Youth Radio.

We’re finding that more and more professionals are eschewing corporate-ladder climbing in favor of pivoting into a “career with meaning.” Do you attribute this shift to anything in particular?

Well, there is certainly a shift toward professional empowerment. People across industries are finding ways to live the lifestyle they want by changing their relationships with employers and clients. A key part of these new lifestyles is finding meaning.

Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean helping non-profits; meaning can come from anywhere. Technology has enabled that shift by allowing more and more people to be a professional without being an employee. As the rate of technological change continues to increase, I think you’ll see more people making lifestyle choices that fall outside the corporate ladder. Hopefully that will result in a lot more people finding fulfillment in their work.

In what ways is the Web making it easier for non-profit organizations like Greatest Good to exist?

Non-profits need money. It’s very hard working toward a cause while fundraising. The Web opens up fundraising in unprecedented ways: people serving as advocates via the social web (how many buckets of ice water have you seen being dumped on heads this week?); diverse payment tools reducing transaction costs for donations; and in our case, ubiquitous video chat technology opening up a completely new model for people to donate their time.

We’re a not-for-profit that’s not dedicated to a specific cause; instead our cause is maximizing an Advisor’s ability to support their cause. Being an agnostic platform is just one of the seemingly infinite new ways non-profits are benefiting from the Web.

Do you have any advice for professionals like yourself who are interested in launching a non-profit organization?

Ask for help. People are much more likely to say “yes” if they feel they’re contributing to something bigger. I can’t believe the all-star cast that agreed to help me launch Greatest Good.

And hey, if you want a non-profit thought leader’s perspective on it, there’s no better place to find one than greatestgood.org/advisors. 🙂


Forbes Interview about Greatest Good


I recently launched a non-profit called Greatest Good. In a nutshell, it attempts to reinvent the way people raise money for the causes they care about. David Slocum of the Berlin School of Creative Leadership was kind enough to interview me for Forbes, the transcript of which can be found below. The original article is here.

I had a chance to speak recently with Saneel Radia, a 2009 EMBA graduate of The Berlin School of Creative Leadership, who has created “Greatest Good,” a non-profit platform where people donate their time to raise money for charitable causes. Based in New York, Saneel is the Founder of Finch15, a VivaKi-incubated innovation boutique that helps mature brands to concept, prototype and launch revenue-producing digital businesses. Prior to launching Finch15, Saneel ran the North American division of BBH Labs, the innovation unit of BBH, and, during his Berlin School days, was MD and “Alchemist” at Denuo, a Publicis Groupe Company focused on innovating digital services, media and technology.
David Slocum: Let’s start by asking you to explain Greatest Good.

Saneel Radia: Greatest Good is a digital platform for people to donate their time to support the causes they care about. The intention is for thought leaders across industries to make themselves accessible to individuals and companies that could benefit from their perspective in a one-on-one discussion. The money from selling their time goes to the charity of their choice.

Slocum: What was the insight that led you to develop Greatest Good?

Radia: Working in the marketing and tech areas, in particular, I was repeatedly struck by issues that swirled around the value of time and the transfer of knowledge – you might say, around reconciling financial metrics and depth of expertise. When volunteering, there’s always a tension between donating time and money; contributors want to give their time, charities tend to prefer to receive money. This is because a professional’s time is often worth so much less outside of their native industry. This inefficient conversion of the volunteerism economy is what we’re trying to solve.

Greatest Good emerged as a way for experts to donate something more closely approximating the market value of their time. In turn, businesses could benefit from using the platform to find thought leaders, be inspired, get unstuck, and access new and sophisticated ideas.

Slocum: Can you say more about the model?

Radia: We’re starting with an invitation-only launch featuring 30 advisers whose expertise people can access and roughly 25 charitable organizations that will benefit. Each of the advisers has committed to monthly “office hours” to video chat with users at a rate of $250 per half hour. The users request a video chat with a specific adviser and submit their payment information. After a meeting has occurred, Greatest Good releases the money to the adviser’s selected charity. Overall, Greatest Good is not a cause in itself: it’s a tool for others to make connections while supporting charitable causes they care about.

Slocum: It’s such an exciting project. What’s your timeline beyond the April 2014 launch and the major challenges you see for growth?

Radia: Our plan is for each of the inaugural 30 advisers to invite other advisers of comparable stature in their respective industries. The goal is 40-60 more advisers to join the platform within around three months and for us to continue that cycle into the future until the process becomes self-operating. Our target is for the platform to be fully developed, self-propagating, and with a working pricing strategy, in 18 months. We realize such a process has to be monitored to sustain the quality, diversity and even the consistent pricing of the experience. Accordingly, an instructive parallel for us as we grow is the relationship between TED and TEDx; in the future, we need to ensure that what might be called “Greatest Good ‘X’” continues to deliver the high-level of expertise and full access to charitable organizations that we’re launching with.

Slocum: So diversity is important?

Radia: Diversity is at the core of the concept: diversity in terms of the businesses interested in accessing us, the backgrounds and experiences of the thought leaders and advisers who participate, and the charitable organizations that are on board. Initially, there’s an emphasis on marketing and technology because those are the areas of my own experience and the reach of my network, but we’re very mindful of that. We’re curious following our launch to learn more about the demand for different kinds of experience and expertise and plan to use that as the basis for our future diversification rather than any set plan.

Slocum: The team you’ve assembled is impressive. What else can you tell us about them?

Radia: It’s a group of incredibly talented and committed people. What’s most remarkable is that while they’re all super busy, whether as sought-after freelancers or full-timers at top agencies like BBH and TBWA Chiat Day, they all said ‘yes’ immediately when I approached them about participating. Working together now, with no profit motivation and few resources, has been inspiring. Their willingness to experiment and creatively build something together with little precedent to draw from is amazing to experience first-hand.

Slocum : How does Greatest Good fit into your own future plans?

Radia: I’ve never had a master plan for my future and typically don’t make plans for more than one year out from where I am. My ongoing aspiration is always “to put a dent in the universe” and the stones have just varied over time. As a result my career has touched media, games, creativity, and innovation. Now, Greatest Good provides a marvelous opportunity to build a platform, and a brand, for such positive change. It serves as a great balance to my “day job” running and growing Finch15.

Professor David Slocum is the Faculty Director of Executive MBA Program at the Berlin School of Creative Leadership and is on twitter @DavidSlocum.

Young Glory: Help the #Occupy movement benefit from marketing

I was lucky enough to be invited to brief and judge the Young Glory awards. This unique program is about creative consistency and challenges those under 30 in marketing to answer 8 different briefs over 8 months from 8 different judges. I decided to ask them to help the Occupy movement benefit from marketing. I chose this brief not only because it was timely, but to make the teams think beyond communications (the word “marketing” is precice in that I didn’t want responses limited to advertising solutions). 

The responses were surprising. A number of themes emerged, from helping people protest digitally to official Occupy-approved badges for companies that complied. 

In the end, the gold medal winner was the recommendation to create a fully transparent, but not entirely democratic company.



Congrats Alan Jones on submitting the winning idea. You can see the full list of professional winners here, and the list of student winners here

Or view every entry here and tell me what brilliance I neglected.

Special thanks to Rafik Belmesk and Brendan Graham for inviting me to be a judge in a very unique experience.


Why This Intern’s Homepage is Racist

Recently, writer intern David Shin made the same mistake so many coworkers have made before him. He bet against me. After David grew innaprioriately confident about his ping pong skills, we challenged each other to a 3-game series played in front of the agency.

The stakes: If I lose, David gets to rewrite my LinkedIn page for a month. If I win, I get to rewrite David’s portfolio homepage for a month.

I won. The image below is what people saw first while David was interviewing to land a job in the NYC ad industry (he wrote his own headline… cheater).


UPDATE: David ended up getting a few thousand views as a result. Somehow that stat makes us both feel like we won.

{David is currently freelancing at SS+K. If you’d like to hire him, you can find him here.} 

Rethinking Nonprofits (And Other Intern Inspirations)

[originally posted here at bbh-labs.com]

This is a post I wrote for the Labs blog looking back on the UnderheardinNY. Just a few days after this post went live, it ended up winning 2 Cannes lions, which was quite cool


The Barn is a 10-week internship program

Last week kicked off another session of The Barn, BBH NY’s 10-week internship program. The Barn brings in 6 interns, divides them into two teams and has them compete on a 3-word creative brief (last session’s was “Do good, famously” but we can’t tell you this one just yet).

It’s a fantastic program, run by Heidi HackemerDane Larsen and Jordan Kramer. As I work with my new team (I’m the Advisor for Team Moose*), I’m reminded of how such a program broadens our agency’s thinking as much as it does the interns’.

My team last session had a fantastic idea to give 4 homeless men a voice via Twitter as part of a project called Underheard. That experience made me fundamentally rethink the role non-profits play in a world where motivated audiences self-organize and work (a theme we’ve discussed before).

In fact, Underheard showed me the limitations inherent to straight-forward marketing by non-profits. Generally, their missions—and resulting communication—are highly focused. Take, for instance, the mission statements of two of my favorite non-profits here in the US.

Feeding America: “Our mission is to feed America’s hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks and engage our country in the fight to end hunger.”

National Resource Defense Council: “We use law, science and the support of 1.3 million members and online activists to protect the planet’s wildlife and wild places and to ensure a safe and healthy environment for all living things.”

Both organizations are clear not only in what they want to achieve, but also their means: food banks and legal action, respectively.

This fairly typical behavior makes it clear and easy for me to engage. Their cause is established. If I choose to support any cause, I’ll do so via an organization that uses the means I believe most effective. So of course a non-profit should outline the micro-actions I can take as a concerned citizen to help, right?

I’m no longer convinced that’s the only solution. Underheard (not an organization of any kind,to be explicitly clear) was simply a platform for homeless individuals. It didn’t specifically ask people to donate, nor did it edit what happened (when giving homeless individuals a voice, it should be no surprise some of what we heard fell outside of anything an organization would ever endorse). Nonetheless, people regularly contacted the interns to help the four men in ways they deemed best. At one point, someone in Australia paid for 2 transit tickets Albert (one of the four Tweeters) received. Those tickets totaled $200, beyond any reasonable amount Albert could have gathered on his own. Similarly, Danny was offered help to write his story by someone in Wisconsin. This desire to tell his story was something he brought up a few times including at the very outset of being selected for the project. Neither of these were ever explicit requests. In fact, financial help was offered regularly, but no one ever said they’d like to donate generally. Every financial offering was tied to a specific individual and incident. The offer was never $200. It was to pay for those daunting tickets. The offer wasn’t to fund a book; it was to help write it.

It seems people will determine the appropriate means of contributing if the right system is in place. In this case, the only pieces required were a platform to communicate (pre-paid phones to tweet from) and someone spreading the word. It’s similar to how a free-to-use site like Craigslist can turn commerce upside down via collaborative consumption. Craigslist never set out to extend the life of products or help communities consume more efficiently; it just happened to be the platform on which such consequences transpire.

All of this opened my mind to a new possibility. Could a non-profit exist simply as a platform for those that may need help with no instructions or systems in place to actually help? Sure, a number of organizations already use social media to push their causes and seek help, but they are generally speaking to existing supporters– and they’re outlining what they need. Could an extremely low-cost platform serve solely as scaffolding to let people connect their own solutions to narratives told by people in need?

Currently, people in need use the internet to ask for help all the time, but to a very limited audience. Their best-case scenario is having their need adopted by a cause that will help them. But what about all those people that could decide how to help without an organization outlining how? Is there a scalable solution between being a collection of individuals in need and being a formal organization requiring funds to operate? Could a platform that simply makes voices heard but doesn’t actually have an agenda successfully exist? Perhaps it’s a Craigslist-meets-Kickstarter-meets-Twitter for people to tell stories in a culture that is clearly intended to seek assistance, but in no specified fashion. The possibilities seem pleasantly ambiguous and endless.

Now, that may be the dumbest idea ever. That’s not the point. The point is how much my mind was opened by people with limited resources and experience answering an open-ended brief.

The point is intern inspiration.

I can’t wait to see what this new group of interns does. No matter what they do, I’m sure I’ll be inspired in some way. That’s a fantastic investment for any company to make.

*Follow this summer’s Team Moose interns on Twitter: Jennifer Huang (@jennnifurby), Haywood Watkins III (@4eyesandbowties), and Stephanie Krivitzky (@ihearthummus)

Lecturing at the Miami Ad School Innovation Bootcamp

I recently spent 3 days leading an Innovation Boot Camp at Miami Ad School in Florida. They ended up capturing and editing quite a bit of video. Below is a sample of 3 videos they’ve posted to their channel. You can see all the videos here. Man, I drop f-bombs way too often.


Saneel Radia #2 – Innovation from Miami Ad School on Vimeo.

Saneel Radia #3 – History of Ad Agency Structure from Miami Ad School on Vimeo.

Saneel Radia #7 – BBH Labs from Miami Ad School on Vimeo.

Are the Junior Talent in Advertising Packaging Themselves Wrong?

[originally posted here at bbh-labs.com]

Funnily enough, I’m the first point of contact for many people trying to get a job at BBH NY because of the blog and my very public email address. I wrote this post after noticing a trend of people talking about being hybrids that actually weren’t hybrids.

 Jack... of all trades?

Jack… of all trades

We interview people all the time, even when we’re not hiring.

There’s no arguing that the quality of junior talent in our industry is exceptional. This is a group that’s taking a systematic approach to studying our craft, while balancing it with a pleasantly messy (as Global Planning Director, Heidi Hackemer, labeled it when screening candidates for the Barn program) mix of other interests that feed their insatiable curiosity.

Yet, there is an alarming trend about this talent. It has to do with packaging.

We look for T-shaped people when hiring. In other words, talent that’s got a specific area of awesomeness, but stretches into other areas in a highly collaborative way. This is distinct from being a hybrid talent, a label that most junior talent in our industry self-apply early into most of these conversations: “I’m a mix of strategy, creative, media and production.” True hybrid talent has more than one depth of expertise. That’s exceptionally hard (I know, I was a sub-par Media Director before being a sub-par Creative Director).

No doubt this crop of people is indeed a mix of expertise. In fact, it’s likely more true than of prior generations of ad talent. The question remains though, what arenas do they have or seek a depth of expertise in? In other words, what’s the base of the T?

No one wants to be put in a box, ourselves included. But, ultimately clients want to know what they’re buying, especially in a world of ever less familiar job titles. At BBH for example, it isn’t until clients see engagement planning as a discipline that they fully appreciate the value it brings to the table in today’s marketing landscape.

Which brings us to the punch line. The junior talent in this industry needs to remain buyable, even as they become messier and potentially more hybrid. So many talented young folks do a little bit of everything, but few are willing to commit to doing one particular thing quite well. In other words, those with the potential to truly be hybrid talent—deep skills in more than one vertical expertise—never manage to gain the depth to deliver on the promise such talent has.

Yet, it’s exactly that talent that I know every agency in the country would hand a job to right now if they were just more buyable. The question is simply, which one needs to change? The talent and how they package themselves? Or the agencies that struggle to explain their value to clients?