“It is common for all of us to seek our own path to success as we defined it. Time waits for no one.”

“While allowing room for failures is encouraged, employees should also be trained to be courageous to admit mistakes and pick up slacks.”

“Eventually, the core business will mature and stops growing. The owner should invest in parallel several years earlier in the next growth business so they are ready when the core stalled and profit would already be taking over as the next engine of growth.”

When Costs Kiss Goodbye!

Image credit: Kraft Heinz loses a lot of cheese as earnings send stock plunging to …

Interesting article about an investment company (private equity firm) that acquire food businesses (Heinz & Kraft Foods) back in 2013 and 2015 respectively. The firm believed these two companies could unlock more values by using ruthless focus on efficiency. They quickly employed radical cost cutting programs.

They fired thousands of workers, shutdown factories, used zero-based budgeting model (justify cost without regard of previous year spending), remove refrigerators (pantry) in the HQ known for stocking cheese sticks, set default settings of office printers (double sided with black toner) and limit meals spending during travel to $50 a day. Guess what happened next?

These initiatives and cost program led to industry-leading profit margins in less than 2 years! The stock price went up to more than $90 in 2017! See below.

Screenshot 2019-05-18 at 12.55.51 AM

Screenshot 2019-05-18 at 12.55.21 AM

But, unfortunately, it went to nose dive after all the radical cost programs deployed. From my research, Kraft Heinz overlooked the marketing bit, product innovations for their changing customers segments and valuable employees feedback that know how to run your operations especially in different market segments and countries.

Sometimes, big brands and companies make tactical mistakes like this. No doubt long history companies tend to have opportunities to go leaner that it was; things usually get complacent after awhile.

One of the videos, check it out.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/22/kraft-heinz-backers-face-reality-brutal-cost-cutting-isnt-enough.html

Lessons that we could take from here are:

  1. Look at at products and services innovations as growth strategy: There are probably a host of products that could be making money or probably there’d discover that most of the products are obsolete to modern customers. For the record, Kraft Heinz launched new products such as organic version of Capri Sun and expanded its condiment businesses. They tried, probably not enough time to see it through, perhaps these new lineups will grow later.
  1. People are not measured by their salary or price tag, rather by their value brings to the business: I tried looking for some human capital development strategies when the equity firm bought Kraft & Heinz, but I couldn’t find any. Although I may not a fan of “total spoon-feed your talent because you care”, I do believe the management should consider taking longer time to lay offs to ensure the tacit knowledge is transferred to the business. You should pay high for someone that could do more and pay less for someone who can only do routine work.
  1. There’s only so much you can do with cost efficiencies: Key for growth is innovation. I’d expect big brands and companies, should invest in ruthless innovation focus in three areas. First, new products and services that reflect current and future customers needs and wants. Second, leaner processes and automation to bringdown redundancies in capital & assets deployed and reduce wastages. Third, to find market creations opportunities that will need to be invested and R&D. You can read more about this from Clayton Christensen book titled, “The Prosperity Paradox”.

Innovations are for growth. Companies need to spend and invest together with their workforce to improve capability and capacity to innovate. I do hope to see Kraft Heinz able to come out from this plunge and see this only temporarily.

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com 

Why Corporates Need Corporate Innovation?

I will go straight to the point this time, no BS here. 😉

Here are the FIVE Observations that make corporates need Corporate Innovation, within this year:

  1. The corporation no longer effective in capital allocation. It only spend on what it has been doing over the years since its founding days. The growth is stagnant? Right? There have been talks about why the auto market is stagnant, utilities market is stagnant, banking market is stagnant and education market is stagnant? Is it really? Think again. The corporate hiring is all time low, even if they do it is only incremental. How big can you hire anyway? How much capex do you want every year?

  2. The employees in that corporations have been out of touch from the customers worldview and realities – things they go through in every day life. The employees think that if you are an executive or business people, you will need a bank account so you will go to the bank freely without the bank having to promote to you any service. So they hesitantly “provide service” with the hope you will get out the branch quickly. The employees only know their job (think they know?) and only worry (pay attention) to their yearly increment. The employee has never thought how important you are because he is not in the marketing department!
  3. The people in the corporations no longer recognize each others strengths and passion anymore. They know each other by searching the names in the company database by their work title and department. They only care about numbers, bottomlines, KPIs, processes, SOPs and their own bosses. They forget the empathy in their colleagues and the motivation they come to work for.
  4. The corporations are a lot less helping the nation progress and becoming productive. Profiting RM100 million a year isn’t the same as elevating 1,000 people out of electrical poverty or lack internet access. The corporations care-less about the environment they operate and the shared prosperity – they only care about batches of production they need to make, the stuffs they have to deliver. They polluted the areas and take away the prosperous-ness in the areas.
  5. The suppliers and vendors of the corporations are non other than the same big boys instead of local business and startups with creative and innovative products and services with energetic and entreprneurial founders. The corporations with all their busy-ness tending to the bottom line didn’t get out of the building to look for what’s new, what’s better and what’s ahead. They are confined confidently in the comfort of large, air conditioned and well equipped office.

In the Corporate Innovation program, corporations will unbox, rediscover the untapped opportunities within the layers they have and assets they kept are abound; right on their backyard, under their nose and in their neighbourhood.

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com 

#corporateinnovation #innovation

Corporate Innovation Not A Department

Corporate innovation is an important feature in large organizations. I wouldn’t suggest it to be a corporate function or division or department as it will create another layer or compartment; bureaucratic and adds extra cost to the company.

I think corporate innovation should be an embedded strategic program cut across divisions. Who should lead? I’ve seen HR doing it, IT doing it and CEO office doing it. Easy way out is CEO office, but I’ve seen CEO has 25 direct reports, how could he adds another? My best bet, corporate innovation mandate should come from the Board as strategic program (with start end period) max 3 years and review every 3-6 months.

Each year is a different “focus” leading towards the objectives and outcomes. Why Board? Because Board changes is a lot less than top management. Besides, Board has greater cohesion between them that can drive management team zand its workforce.

Now, the problem with Board? They lack customers voice and seemingly out of touch of the business realities on the ground. The Board can use corporate innovation to get this mended instantly. Greater customers voices should be heard directly at the Board with wider attention. Let’s get on board. corporateinnovation business relationships #innovation

Brickbats? Please write to donkhairul@gmail.com

Corporate Innovation Champion Is….

In the most innovative and valuable companies in the world, the CIO is the CEO. For innovation to happen, top down & mandated approach has better chance of success. In the meantime, the executive management also marshall the bottom up innovation approach by getting people excited about giving ideas, tweak some process and embrace feedback culture.

When these two strategies in alignment (top down mandate + bottom up excitement), it will eventually creates its own equilibirium and a meeting point. Once a meeting point reached, good to have another round of “workout – GE way” and ask “Where should we go now?”. I can almost guarantee this question when asked sincerely and with gratitude will bring you and your team to next level performance.

Amidst all the BAUs priorities, if at all you want to do it, let’s do it well. innovation #business relationships improvement corporateinnovation success corporatemodel

Corporate Innovation Pain Points

*First appeard on LinkedIn in April 2019

Corporate Innovation Program is the buzz word these days for very good reason. The awareness and action of many companies responding to change is getting better because “innovation” a must have agenda for top management and high level discussion including nations alike. The focus of innovation is “awakened” in the last few years so much so the word leadership has become low-key. I for one advocate leaders with big title if they couldn’t innovate their days are numbered or they should be shown the door. Run!

Innovation for it’s best intention solving pain points of the organizations, also carry it’s own inherited pain points. Well, pain points may sound negative. However negative it may sound, it is almost impossible to resolve it indefinitely before any launch of corporate innovation projects. The pain points highlighted are meant to be aware of, taken into consideration and minimized its negativity impact when possible. Let the goals of the corporate innovation be our guiding light, not the pain points. After all, no pain no gain.

Here are the Five Pain Points:

1.Departmental / Divisional Fiefdom

Fiefdom is there not for a good reason, definitely to be tear down in corporate innovation. The fiefdom stems from who owns the corporate innovation project. It could be the IT, Sales, Human Resource or CEO’s office. This way the budget can be better spent and realized, it is just the project impact is risked. Fiefdom mindset drags collaboration on its feet so much so other department rather sees the project fail than doing well. Fiefdom limits the upside potentials of any corporate innovation project.

Steve Ballmer, formerly CEO of Microsoft once said, “After all the things we want to do is aligned, the final piece of the puzzle is how we work together.” The differences of views and opinions are critical to growth, yet, there are also the stumbling block of productivity when not handled well or fully understood.

2. “Seen All Done All Nothing New” Top Management

It is common these days to include diverse at the top management line up. Diversity is key and we all know that diversity has to be worked on and build. It wouldn’t come by itself. There’s a lot of trust building, empathic engagement and sheer intolerance of incompetent senior management. Their backgrounds while may be helpful on their CV, when put to work they find themselves unable to take differentiated point of views and lack of willingness to change. They like the glory days of their past from other workplaces and using force (and bootlicks) to have it their way. New ideas shunned, opposing views silenced and change is too big to address because they have “seen all done all nothing new” mindset. They block any attempt to change by hoarding resources, veto decisions and play the upper hand with the Board or shareholders.

Top management that deter collaboration shouldn’t be in the line up at the first place. As we grow into leadership role at higher level, it is very much less about us, it is about them; our customers and our team members.

3. Only Pedigree Can Give Ideas

In this kind of organization, ideas are treated sacred. Only certain people deemed can give “great” ideas and only selected alumnus from certain universities can voice their opinions. The pedigree culture blocks other people from participating in what matters to the organizations. To make matters worst, pedigrees get rewarded handsomely that further reinforced unhealthy behaviours among peers and employees alike.

Developmental talent programs such as top talent sometimes create this unwanted differences in the day to day operations. The waiting culture seep in where without the pedigree there’ll be no decision of moving forward. No one is willing to make mistake because of huge career setbacks might affected their standing in the company and future development. The behaviours also could be manifested in negative ways such as bullying, narcissism and abuse of authortity.

4. Customer Voices Not Heard

With all the good business strategies and goals for the customers, there’s huge hesitation to talk to the customers to get feedbacks, opinions and suggestions. By the way who supposed to do it? Some say marketing, some say IT or procurement, maybe human resource? Everyone should do it. Sometimes the organization pressuring those “little” staffs at the counters with huge responsibilities to get feedbacks from the customers. Challenge is those little staffs are receptionists or call centre agents that have little means to understand the complexities of interactions happening with the products and services from across the organizations.

Besides, they also have limited authority to do customers recovery or beyond to directly attend to customers needs and wants. The survey provided with checklist won’t be able to extract feelings and emotions of difficulties of getting the services done.

Additionally, there is tendency to lead the customers to tick surveys quickly with long winded survey because customers are always in a hurry. Not knowing their pain points, struggles or hear their stories could lead to organization that is myopic of the challenges faced by their customers. This also applies to internal customers that are using our processes to get things done.

In some organizations, the quality policy used is different to meet certain standards, such as an independent Procurement department, whereby only the Procurement is certified with ISO 14001 and the rest do not. It is a mess!

5. Tools Before Strategy

It used to be Porter’s Five Diamonds, then Organizational Development, then Agile, then Lean, the Six Sigma, then Blue Ocean Strategies, then Design Thinking, then Heart Thinking and so on. These are tools. Someone said, “A tool and a fool seldom differ.”

Organization should put their business strategies above anything else. What do we want to achieve? How do we get there? What is our value? Who should be our target customers? What capabilities that differentiate us to deliver our value proposition? These are strategic questions called Strategic Five by strategy+business knowledge portal – let’s get down to basics.

Our answers (or no answer!) to these questions will help determine the “mix” of tools you might need. No one tool fits all strategic needs of any organization in today’s environment. One thing for sure, our people and workforce needs to learn more than one tool to make them nimble, agile and empowered in decision making when interfacing with the customers. Always remember, “structure follows strategy”.

Brickbats? Please email to donkhairul@gmail.com Thanks!

Top 10 Great Ideas in 2018 from the Field-Walk

Hey, I am back after long hiatus (exactly 1 year!). Been super busy, I will make more commitment this year. One article at least per month. Let’s work it out. 🙂

This post is about Ideas that I have personally observed that were generated by participant of our Design Thinking Innovation workshops in 2018. I started compiling these ideas and take note how popular these ideas among the participants. I also have super great news that some ideas in 2017 became reality and being implemented (some at national level!), it was thrilling feeling to see this happening.

Now let me share 10 Great Ideas in 2018:

  1. Thrash for Wifi access. This idea came from Sabahan because internet cost for mobile is quite expensive to Sabahan graduates and average household. Therefore they rely (especially youth) on public wifi. The youth willing to collect thrash around the cities and in return they get wifi access (via coupons or digital link)
  2. Smoking ban in public place. This idea came from several groups during early 2018. It was laughed at and ridiculed by mostly smokers because of the wide scope of the implementation. Interestingly, now at the time of writing, smoking is now completely banned in public eateries nationwide and progressing to wider coverage by 2019 end.
  3. Open banking, share all banking data in one app or one source. This interesing fintech ideas came from several banks and customers. It used to be each bank collect their own customer data and they shouldn’t (and couldn’t) share it with other bank. For example if you are a user of credit card from Bank A, if you are applying another credit card for Bank B, they wouldn’t know. This became a problem especially if the customer is a bad paymaster of credit card Bank A. The problem later might spill to Bank B. On the other hand, if you are a great paymaster, your credit ratings improved, your data is shared with other banks, you become a highly sought customers from various banks. That’s the advantage.
  4. Trap rubbish at the river or drainage using mesh. This idea came from people in flood-prone areas. The flash flood usually happened in rainy season and caused major traffic problem. One of the problems are clogged drainages and rising water from the rivers because of thrash! While it is understandable we shouldn’t throw rubbish, I personally found the thrash sometimes from factories because of the quantities are massive. So to effectively and efficiently clean up the river, using wire or nylon mesh to trap the river would be quick.
  5. Auditors and HR staffs are from business departments and branch operations. This fabulous ideas came from multiple banks. The audit and HR departments found out 2 major problems. First, these two departments are not well liked by the staffs because of poor misperception. Second, most staffs joined these two departments are juniors hence little operations and business experiences. Consequently, most of their work deemed lack substance and lack empathy. An insight surfaced, those with experiences that joined audit and HR department tend to be more matured and heightened empathy. They also managed to convince their former colleagues to be more receptive and cooperative in bringing the business to the next level!
  6. Video conference for long distance meeting. This idea came from government officials that live far from the headquarters. Some had to travel 8-10 hours for an hour meeting. To cut time, cost of travel and health bills, the use of video conferencing could effectively and efficiently for both parties. Let’s use meeting for key decision making. Hopefully the next phase of national broadband plan in 2019 will be spearheaded faster than expected. Faster connection will definitely help!
  7. Tax break for donations by the public to schools and universities. It is true and evident the government funds to schools are getting lesser by the year due to various reasons. It is also true and evident, most parents would want to donate (and willing) to donate for schools where their kids studies. Tax is a very good tool for the government to use to invite this “money on the table” by giving tax breaks (double if possible).
  8. HR to drive innovation capabilities development. This idea came repetitively from banks and MNCs pointing that many HR “waits” for business departments request for innovation program. HR in their views still see “innovation” as technical know-how, technology-based and only for selected people. HR as the people builder needs to step up quickly grasp the big gap of innovation capabilities by launching innovation training programs and workshops because innovation today and beyond is everybody’s business.
  9. Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered & gravity dumb-bell. It turns out a lot of people want to get fit by using dumb bell (including me). The insight we found that a lot of people don’t know what kind and how much weight they should do that will effectively help them meet their goals. Using AI & gravity, user only need to buy one dumb bell of this kind and start getting fit progressively, without having to own a whole rack of those bells!
  10. Launch fintech fast to collect data. Fintech is pervasive these days, many local banks turn confused what they should do actually. They found many banks took very long time to think “analytically and holistically” so much so go to market become painstakingly long. The idea is about fast launch of basic fintech products & services for example CASA account, children account or loan application with primary purpose to collect data and learn from it before even considering the full blown product. This could make sense because by the day there are many more technology players in this area, therefore investing in sophisticated technology may not pay off in the long run. Think about it.

 

Hope you enjoy this piece. Any brickbats please email to donkhairul@gmail.com 

Happy New Year 2019!

ca4f1c85-d93f-41d9-90e7-fd7759588457

The One Word That Make People Hate Innovation

I stumbled on my current research by accident. By observing people’s reaction. Let me explain.

Every time in my design thinking workshop I asked my audience, whether they love innovation in products and services they used, of course they loved it to bits!

They spoke about how the food delivery service such as #FoodPanda, #Ubereats and #GoFresh (among others) helped them deal with life when they need food.

Some Muslim ladies also spoke about their hijab, tudung and scarf that make them look gorgeous , beautiful and of course more confident when they work and socialize professionally and personally.

Many men also expressed their love for e-commerce sites such as Lazada where a number electrical hobbyists and car enthusiast including aspiring botanist found their haven for things they love doing.

Most of the people I met during my workshop claimed their live getting much easier these days because of all these innovative products and services integrated into their lifestyle. Of course, smartphones and apps are the most popularly quoted as innovative products and services.

When we discuss deeper, what constitutes successful innovation, there is one word that put the world a stop for a moment. This word makes everyone reconsider what they said earlier about innovation and their love of great products and services.

The word is CHANGE. Everybody hates change – especially when the change go against your will. This include my 4 months old baby when I wanted to change his diaper, come on! I am helping you getting clean lols

When we run design thinking innovation workshop for senior management (or any innovation workshop for that matter), the discussion on change is very crucial. How tolerant is the management towards CHANGE? How committed they are? What are they willing to give up? Why do they want change? Who needs change first? When do we should give up those baggages?

I found discussion on change in very key in successfully getting the buy in prior any innovation or transformation work. The senior leadership themselves must be in unison when it comes to commitment to change. Be the change you want to see, as Gandhi famously said.

In some scenario, the current situation is already bad (or it could be too comfortable perhaps?) therefore change is “easier” to instill. Oh booy, change is difficult and change is hard. Change takes effort, effort and effort. We usually got stuck in either one of these change levers, our capacity to change, our capability to change or our ability to change. Which one do you stuck the most? Which does your organization stuck the most?

Source: Who-Wants-Change-Crowd-Change-Management-Blue | Free to use … | Flickr

For those who are leading innovation in their organization, let me share good points from this book from Noel Tichy, “The Cycle of Leadership”. I love this book so much, get a copy if you will.

He said this interesting view of leadership, they are autocrats (who forcefully lead change without taking any feedbacks) and they are abdicrats (who take all the feedback without taking any decision or stand to move out). These two extremes create leadership vacuum and ultimately power failures. This need change.

Better your best!

Wait for my follow up article on this topic soon!

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

Top Five Great Ideas in 2017 From “The Field”

In 2017, my team and I met more than 1,000 people from multiple workshops throughout the year when we ran our flagship training,  Design Thinking Innovation workshop. The significance of design thinking workshop is in the fieldwork, which I’d like to call as ‘The Field”. During the fieldwork, the trainees last year interviewed between 2,000-3,000 people last year.

From those multiple workshops we had, they generated lots and lots of ideas. The following were the Top Five Great Ideas in 2017:

 

1.Student loan (PTPTN) becomes the employer’s benefits for employees. 

Most employees, young executives particularly carry substantial student loan – around RM 30,000 – RM 45,000 (locally known as PTPTN). Screen Shot 2018-01-01 at 8.58.49 PM.png

*Source: iMoney

These loans were part of their commitment when they study in local universities. Part of the deal with PTPTN, once the students graduated they need to repay back to PTPTN. Somehow this didn’t happen as effective as both parties wished, PTPTN overall repayment rate is very poor, only 3% .

What if the PTPTN loan is taken over by the employers as part of employees benefits? It could be carve out from the insurance provision or medical benefits. Someone from Compensation & Benefits (ComBen) in HR department could advise this better. Or maybe if you have thousands of staffs with PTPTN loan, it certainly could amount to few millions RM, how about having a company to manage this loans? Well, something to think through.

 

2. Children bank account package just like we used to have 30 years ago.

Wither children bank accounts in our local bank? You probably noticed that many banks these days do not really have an attractive children bank account like we used to have aeons ago such as Yippee, Bank Bumiputra and Tabung Haji (where you get a replica of Tabung Haji building as your coin box). I opened bank account for my kids recently and few years ago, then I received a link via SMS from the bank – excited then I clicked the link – the I was upset – because it was a bad link (automated from their system but poorly maintained either by the marketing department or webmaster – yes let’s start the blame game!)

From “The Field”, we found a lot of respondents wondering why the bank no longer offer beautifully designed children bank account. Actually later I found the answer from some senior bank managers who said, “deposits are outdated, banks prefer offering financing these days.” I was rather upset because the answers we “soooo like bankers”. LOLS. Haven’t they heard Fintech? LOLS

What if the local bank could revive and rejuvenate children bank accounts once again? Make investment and saving as part of everyday lingo in the family. These days, saving and investment is missing in children’s vocab, all they know is buying this and that. I know some local banks offer children bank acccount, most of it dull. Make it fun and exciting please!

 

3. Investment account that’s accessible by “normal and average Joe”

Normal and average Joe has only saving account. Many roll up their eyes when we talk about investment products from banks. They either just haven’t heard about it from the bank or they just said the bankers tell them these investment products are only for the HNWI (high net worth individuals).

Again, I was rather upset because the answers we “soooo like bankers”. LOLS. Haven’t they heard Fintech in Wealth Management? LOLS

What if the bank could give access to their simple product that usually require RM 100k deposits from one HNWI to “100 normal people and average Joe that have RM 1k for investment and wealth creation?”

product-discoverability4

Source: Centric Digital

 

4. Make Top Management (Senior Vice Presidents and C-suites) teaching in the company

The knowledge gap in the company (especially tacit and implicit) is growing wider. The gap is widely seen between the Top Management and Middle Management to Entry level Executives could only be fixed not with hiring external consultants or run training programs after training programs or coordinate leadership development programs after programs, ratther companies have to start to look for the solution internally.

The challenge is often, the management is asking the wrong question and always in a hurry to look for the right answer. The question they usually asked is “why our knowledge gap is getting wider?” which is looking for the right answer. Instead the appropriate question should be, “how to accelerate the spread of knowledge between the management faster?” which is to explore possibilities. One of the popular ideas generated in our workshop is to “teach the top management how to teach their managers”.

What if we could teach leaders how to teach their strengths and transfer their skills? Further research would validate this idea that General Electric (GE) have done this many years ago via Crotonville University.

Things+Leaders+Do+GE_s+Jeff+Immelt+on+the+10+keys+to+great+leadership.

Source: Slideplayer

5. “Dress down” day to Productivity

In Malaysia, the proliferation of new generations as the workforce is already between 50-70% at the executives and junior managers level. Some companies that have thousands of employees, could save money from providing uniforms for white collar executives and junior managers. In some companies, the top management still frowned upon the concept of “Dress down” day. The concept allows the employees to dress with anything they like within the formality guidelines, although some companies have little guidelines, having something to rely on will do more good than harm.

The new generation prefer freedom of expression and they do have nice collection of wardrobe simply because fashion these days are cheaper and with so many options. Therefore allowing them to “dress down” in most of the days, it will give them the “extra benefits” to stay in the company and would boost their morale and consequently productivity while working in the organization. In other words, when you allow them to wear jeans, slip on shoes, hoodies etc, they will work harder.

In our interviews with the millenials respondents, that was the feedback and the great idea was “Dress down day”. Check out this analysis from NY Post on “Dress down and productivity”.

What if “Dress down day” could boost productivity and increased morale of the employees, would that save the company in medical bills and unproductive work habits? Of course, save of the uniform tailoring too!

dress-down-day-or-no

Well, those are the Top Five Great Ideas in 2017. I will be sharing more stuffs and great ideas from “The Field” from my LinkedIn-Khairul Anwar. See you there!

Brickbats? Email me at donkhairul@gmail.com 

Think Different

If you remember it well, this was Apple’s tagline back in 1980s. Back then when I saw Apple’s product – such as earlier version of Macintosh, I don’t quite understand what Think Different. I also don’t really see a need to think differently. I thought we should always think the way it is. Yeah, the way as your parents, teachers and preachers taught you. There shouldn’t be any other way right?

I still remember the day when Steve Jobs of Apple was fired and ousted from his company. It was either shown on TV or in the newspaper because it is still ringing in my ears that my father told me about him. My father said, “You see this guy is crazy. He started a company then it grows so big and he got fired from his own company. How that could be possible? He started the company of course he should stayed on.

” My father was furious – he was a technician with a government-owned company. He added this line that stuck with me for umpteen years, “So don’t bother about starting a company or do business because it will be a disaster if you become like this guy. He is out of job now!”

While Steve Jobs ousted from Apple walking away with millions (that time I didn’t know he had stocks) and as for me that line stayed on imprinted in my subconscious for many years to come. I was 10 years in 1990. That was how powerful parents words because it can shape thoughts. The undoing it took long, painful losses yet adventurous (when looked back!). So my goal when I grow up was to score well in studies and work for an organisation, preferably a government-owned if not a government agency.

However life has its own way of nudging me to different directions. I was given many opportunities in my late teens to open up the different side of me that I had surpassed for long time. The journey begins and now here I am.

This post came about when I bumped into a young engineer in a company that I conducted training. This technician was paying a lot of attention the class and getting involved as well. So during lunch time I complimented him and he said he is very interested the subject, Design Thinking. He said he learned some of it during his university days.

He then continued telling me that he was selected as the only student in a student project sponsored by Dyson – yes the vacuum, bladeless fan and some other awesome appliances. He said during his Dyson stint, he had been pushed to think very differently, yes very different so much so his engineering him had to give away. He was so scared and shocked that why this successful company like Dyson wanted think to be so different? He couldn’t get it, yet he persisted. He worked on hand-dryer project at that time.

He then told me that he was offered a job interview after that, yeah just the interview first. During the session he was asked to think very differently for example how could a ball be different? How could a battery be different? Instead of thinking different, he tried to give the facts that he knew. He didn’t survived the first interview. Poor this technician. Interestingly, according to him, those that survived the interviews and finally landed jobs there were those who think very different. He knew these people were very different because he worked with them during the project. This story was relayed to me 2 months ago. I got this guy to tell the rest of his colleagues, and they were all surprised hearing it first time because this technician has been working there for the last 5 years. 🙂

Think different is highly prized these days. If you are students, teens, young executives and junior managers, senior managers and CEOs, it pays to invest in yourself how to think different. It pays to think different because the “mismatched” world is considered as creative and innovative these days.

Get a book or two about how different can you be. Hangout in conferences or people that are different from you. Take risk a little bit, throw yourself plunge a little bit and embrace uncomfortable feelings a little bit. The rewards? Think different.

My parting words, “If you think you are different, stay different, someday someone somewhere might find you valuable.”

Think different.

Any brickbat please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

Megatrends 2020 and Beyond, Quick Summary

I have been wanting to write this Megatrends post for some time, its just I couldn’t. I was going through multiple reports on Megatrends from the net and they are very exciting. I also read some books to dig deeper into the subject and trying to find out what is it all about.

Here are the Quick Summary from various sources, which I will provide you the links at the bottom of this post.

  1. DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGE – In all megatrends report, demographic change becomes the central theme that’s driving all the other elements. I still remember Drucker’s word in one of his chapters titled “Sources of Innovation”. He said, “when there’s huge demographic change we should expect huge change in other variables.” Demographic change includes ageing population, drop in birth rates, people live longer, greater access to basic needs, access to education and urbanization.
  2. ENVIRONMENT SUCCESSION – Many called it crisis, I prefer the word “Succession”. Dr Thomas Friedman in his book “Thank You For Being Late”, called it “Mother Nature”. We need to make sure we are able to successfully cater to few more billions people in the next 2-3 decades. This include access to food, water, energy and air. When we have more people, we need more space. When we need more space, we clear the environment to make way to housing etc. All of us need to be creative in consuming. As it is our consumption habits may not be sustainable in the long run. Hence I prefer the sharing economy.
  3. MACHINES & TECHNOLOGY – The “rapid feeling of change” that we feel today started around 2006 & 2007 (Tom Friedman). It is the time in between when Facebook & Apple technology hit the market. Fast forward 10 years later, all the technology converged and “gave birth” to Industry 4.0. Now, you can feel the word “disruption” and it is not going to stop. There’s a lot of development in internet, telecommunication, smart factories, artificial intelligence, robotics, data analytics, automation, virtual reality, IoT and digital solutions. You will probably gain more insights by reading Moore’s Law on how technology double itself in almost every year these days.
  4. MONEY MODELS – Whilst not many Megatrends cover this specifically, I intend to add on and highlight this as an important trend. The freenomics is an interesting money model. The rise of social enterprise also a trend that corporations need to consider integrating in their overall business strategy. The sharing economy is creatively emerged as the way forward for us to adapt to new pattern of consumption. As the number of connected population increases, innovative money models certainly more sustainable for any organizations.
  5. PERSONAL EXPRESSION – This trend is covered in one of the reports which I found important to point out. Most people have more choices now. Thanks to wealth created from various economic entry points. Consequently, corporations are struggling to meet everyone’s need (although it is impossible, similarly impossible vice versa!). This includes the way people want to work, what they want to wear & use (brands & functional), how they think, when they want to be with their families, who they want to be their boss and so on. This will demand more flexible, adaptable and much less command & control organization. I remember reading PwC report back in early 2000, about the future of work, it says something like this, “in the future there’ll be a few large organizations and these organizations are served by SME, micro enterprises and independent experts.”
  6. GEOPOLITICS – Several of the reports covered this topic. I could agree that geopolitics is also important. Our economies are more integrated than ever before. When some nations in crisis, some other nations are in growth mode. Some countries have more money and on shopping spree around the world. This posed a new dynamics in terms of culture and national income. The big trading nations such as China, USA, Russia, Brazil, UK (?), Euro (?), Middle East (?), Asean countries (?) and thriving ground for new market. Then there’s war going on in some parts of the world, war-mongering attitudes around neighbouring countries and strained international relations.

 

Khairul in the opinion that in the coming years and beyond 2020, human values becoming very central and core to nation, organization and personal development. Be nice to others, because we can!

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

www.designthinking.com.my

Sources:

  1. http://www.ey.com/gl/en/issues/business-environment/ey-megatrends
  2. https://www.pwc.co.uk/issues/megatrends.html
  3. http://www.haygroup.com/leadership2030/about-the-megatrends.aspx
  4. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/22/books/review/thomas-friedman-thank-you-for-being-late.html?_r=0
  5. Top 20 Global Mega Trends and Their Impact on … – Frost & Sullivan

It Doesn’t Have to Be Lonely At The Top, Tips from HP Founder – Dave Packard

In the past 3-4 weeks, I met some top management executives and 2 CEOs. We were discussing about innovation, culture, mindset and some latest technology stuffs. In one company they wanted to increase innovation competency, in the other they are looking for young genuine leaders to drive new digital initiatives and the next company is looking to hire innovation managers to administer their innovation projects.

What I found in common from these leaders & business managers, they have shared vision that sounds like this “I am looking for some talents that are different from me but almost all of them becoming just like me.” I responded by saying that is a good reflection and they are in the power that are able to change it.

Interestingly, they replied to me, “Khairul, it is very lonely at the top.” I drove back to my office several times in recent weeks getting the same replies (can you imagine that??), “It is very lonely at the top.”

Guess what, it doesn’t have to be. The modern organization is active, progressive and forward looking. How is it possible to be lonely? Leaders will only feel lonely when they isolate themselves in higher office, corner rooms and closed doors. It is very disturbing to me when leaders say “it is very lonely at the top” because it doesn’t have to be! Period.

And these leaders are managing multi-million dollars business, where thousands of people working for them, yet they feel “lonely”? Something isn’t right. Most of the time I found these “lonely” leaders create those disadvantages themselves.

Here some advice to get back on track.  The timeless piece from Dave Packard, the founder of HP shared his 11 Simple Rules. It was delivered by Dave in 1958, 20 years after HP’s founding which was in 1938.

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  1. Think first of the other fellow >> This is akin to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Try looking from his / her perspective. Try to put yourself in their situation.
  2. Reinforce the other person’s feeling of importance >> Everybody loves to feel important. If you are already a leader, it is your job to make your team’s needs more important than your own need.
  3. Respect the other person’s personality right >> We were born different. Our personality doesn’t justify our intelligence. As leaders, we need to be open and appreciate someone’s individuality.
  4. Give sincere recognition & appreciation >> I found this lacking among top leaders. They don’t sweet talk anymore once they hold the big office. Give pat on the back even to the lowest staff rank. You will go miles.
  5. Eliminate anything negative >> Put it this way, negative sucks energy in no time. Positivity gives energy after some time. Train your mind to offer more positive thoughts.
  6. Avoid to openly change or told-off people >> No one likes the idea of being changed or told-off. As leaders, you should help the person to set goals and offer guidance. Let the team runs it. Of course they will take time initially, eventually they will succeed.
  7. Try to understand the other person >> Consider viewpoints of others around you. Particularly those whom report to you directly. Avoid making hasty decisions and overly-exercised your executive power.
  8. Check your first impressions >> Yes, first impression counts and it should be kept in check all the time. This is a useful reminder if you don’t like certain things emotionally although you can pin-point what is it actually. It may been related to your first impression that lasted years!
  9. Small details? Take care of it >> The details are the one that make the difference. Leaders need to appreciate finesse in their tone of voice, the way they walk, their smile, choice of words etc..It is simple because as leaders you are a role  model and people are looking at you; all the time.
  10. Be sincerely interested in people >> If you think you are not good at it, go take some classes. You can fake it temporarily, and it will eat you inside. Hence it is best for you to learn to authentically be interested in people. Leaders, open your heart, head and hands.
  11. Practice practice practice >> I like the advise from Dr John Medina, he says ‘Repeat to remember’ and ‘Remember to repeat’. This is the path to mastery.

If you as Leaders, sincerely practice all these and sincerely its values; it is very unlikely you become lonely at the top. I personally know several senior leaders who live and breathe these 11 rules, and they are loved by their comrades and colleagues.

It shouldn’t be lonely at the top. It doesn’t have to be.

Khairul believes that getting along with people is super important these days for modern leaders. Yet, it is the hardest thing to do especially once leaders occupied the big office.

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com 

Demise of Innovation As Good Corporate Culture

Corporate culture means how the company workforce behaves and carry themselves when they interact with the company’s stakeholders. Corporate culture includes the company values (what they believe in). Good corporate culture means the company workforce (including the top management and the rank & files) able to provide highly positive experience during those interactions. They are motivated, upbeat and offer leadership in a good way. Bad corporate culture? Means simply the opposite experience.

In some large companies, entry level executives till mid managers are very afraid to give suggestions and improvement ideas (that makes more than 50% of the total workforce!). They are waiting for orders from the top leaders (as high as board members) and interestingly the top leaders enjoy this “treatment”. Little that the tops realized the demise of innovation under their very own nose. In an extreme case, staffs get warning letters (2 letters!) after giving 2 ideas on how to improve their work. Reasons? Bypassed the managers because the staff submitted the ideas through “Suggestion Box”. This idea of politically correct “touchy-feely-kissy-assy” is a worrying trend.

In most companies, innovation is one of the most important words used in company values. This applies to large MNCs, big local corporates, SME and including micro enterprise. I recalled one conversation with a nasi lemak seller, “I have to make sure my sambal has to be better than anyone else. People around here like it sweeter compared to some place they like it spicier.” Knowing your customer preferences is one of the reliable sources of innovation opportunities. Innovation unlocks company potentials and allow them to compete positively in today’s highly competitive environment in any given niche possible. Often successful innovation focuses on customers needs and wants.

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Innovation is important. Everyone knows that. Alas, not everyone understand how importance of innovation until they hit a roadblock. Often small companies hit many roadblocks compared to large ones. Therefore they usually innovate faster, better albeit smaller steps. Large companies are latecomers when it comes to innovation because the roadblocks that can stall their move are only the big ones, shape shifting and tectonic change. The small roadblocks can be overcome by commanding higher resources ie money, manpower or infrastructure. Hence, the large companies ability to change only happen when they got it big. Therefore the people in large companies are not trained on the job to seriously look at small roadblocks, to them these are just hurdles that they can skip, jump or push aside. You can’t cut queue in roadblocks, can u?

Because large numbers of workforce are not trained to innovate, they simply don’t have the skills to do so. All they know, when they face hurdles, just command more resources. More stuffs stuffed, without having to think what to take out in the process. This has been happening again and again, on and on until some day the resources drained. The roads become stuffed stucked. No more. The big roadblock come, hit them and they become immobilized.

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The top management suddenly realized their workforce machinery unable to deal with it and oppss the machines stop functioning or go much much slower. Only then the top management come down to inspect. Its too late. They are stucked and it is so stuffy.

An example of simple innovation (yet neglected) in companies are many – no I don’t mean technology neither products not services. Let me give you an example. A Process Executive from Project Department said his department job is to receive process improvement instructions from other department. They are the  document controller for processes. All they do is, receive processes instructions from various departments. Although some of the processes are conflicting from one department to the other. But because other departments don’t know in great details of each other’s processes, this issue is buried in the busyness of corporate demands.

Successful innovation comes when the Process Executive decided to bring this up and help facilitate the conflicting processes from the concerning departments. This simple act of creativity, whilst negligible and not in the job scope of the Process Executive (you can embed in job scope but not doing it is another problem), he takes it up and help facilitate to make a difference. Simply because he understands conflicting processes “it is not how the design (processes) should work.”

His refreshing approach is the simplest example of how “re-imagining” can help large organizations innovate at the smallest level. This act by the Processes Executive can be a cumulative and collective acts by thousands more executives and this inspired feelings are contagious. The ripple effects will enable large organizations deal with small roadblocks again or potentially avoid the big roadblock altogether. Alas, big roadblocks are the compounding effect of ignored small ones.

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In conclusion, innovation as good corporate culture may kiss you goodbye even though you have “innovation” printed everywhere in your brochure, website or conference booklets. Maybe a kick in the teeth that you needed the most as wake up call. See you on the other side.

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

So Graduates, Job Secured, What Next?

Your tenacity paid off, your attention to your resume works wonders, your responses to the interviewers seem plausible, the way you carry yourself during the interview were convincing, your voice modulation saying that you are confident and voila! You secured a job that you wanted (at least at that moment). You jumped so high that you could touch your house ceiling! Congratulations graduates! I still remember my own moments when I secured a job, it felt so grown up and excited. I told my mum and dad that I can now pay my own petrol and transport. #grin So what next?

How to stay on the job? What to do to get to the next level? When is the right time to showcase your skills? Why your degree has little meaning to workplace? Why it is not important to “be yourself” when starting out? Do you want to be at the next level, faster?

I wish to offer 5 things for you to consider “be” that may guarantee your next promotion in the next 4-5 years after you secured your first job professionally:

  1. Be Hardworking

At the beginning of anyone’s career, you should consider looking for great experience over great salary. Great work experience will make you do multi things (yes you become multi-tasker). You prepare report, make sales calls, go networking events, lead company’s family day and write report again. Sound busy? Yes you should be. Although you may not see the relevance (yet), you will gain because people started to know you and you start to notice varieties of characters and people around you as well. This is important.

Shohoku

Volunteer to do all these activities around your workplace if you can physically and be positively motivated when doing it. Being motivated is the only difference between being hardworking compared to being overworked. Your bosses will start to notice your face is almost everywhere. You get what we called “attention”.

For those of you that usually skip the university’s events and persatuans, you missed out these moments at that time. Therefore you should take the advantage to pick up again these “getting attention” skills at the beginning of your career.

 

  1. Be Trustworthy

Okay, so you are hardworking and volunteer in a lot of things around your company therefore you are about to walk on thin ice. So you made some mistakes in some of the things you do? The tips is to be honest about your shortfalls and how would you make it differently next time. It is ok to look vulnerable or “weak” because you apologize.

The good news is you project trustworthiness in you to the people around. You will be seen as more open to ideas and feedbacks, this deepen your relationship with co-workers and managers. Remember, trust takes time to develop, you have to invest in it.

For female graduates, don’t beat yourself up so much. Don’t over exaggerate the situation if you make mistakes. It’s enough to just say sorry and “it will not happen again in the future.” For male graduates, learn to say sorry too and please don’t blame others for your own mistakes.

 

  1. Be Resilient

True, there are times things just get so difficult. Not to mention, you received harassment from some dungus, that’s normal. Life’s like that and by knowing this you need to endure it. What is resilient? From Wiki it means, “Able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed.” So after all the gruelling, you still stand tall and chin up. Like what Michelle Obama said, “When people make you feel so low, you don’t stoop to their level. You go high!”

In the course of your 4-5 years during your initial working career, resilient is key for the top management to observe your endurance. Some corporate projects can take 3-4 years to complete therefore the top management is keen with someone that can take things through thick and thin of situation. Corporate projects are such as opening new branch in new country, implementing new system or lead new business area or products. In the absence of knowledge and experience, resilient is your currency for exchange.

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Coach talking to pee wee football team
If you are a leading a team, try to motivate your team to be as resilient as you, more is better. Have conversation with them if you find them lagging behind or dragging their feet to work. It is not ok to be seen as one-man-show whilst you actually have a team with you. Bring them along with you.

 

  1. Be Resourceful

Whenever, whenever you feel you don’t know things your boss asking you to do, you either ask him directly for clarification or google it. Say after you asked, and you still don’t quite get it, you can google it too. Find information online and ask smart questions – specific and to the point.

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I remember one time when I had to organize company’s event and I was asked to find media contacts, I said yes to my boss. I googled and found few contacts online, but it wasn’t enough because we targeted 10 media companies to cover our event in their publication. I presented to my boss and said I only managed to get three. You know what? He said, “Good job! I could see you tried hard. Now here’s the whole list!” Yayyy!!

Although you are a project manager, you must know that decision making of the project still has to be discussed with you supervisor, superior, manager or boss. This little known tips could help you build lasting relationship with your upline. Some younglings excitedly make all the decisions without enough consultation, they are in for the trouble. Therefore, being resourceful means that your tentacles reach out to information fast enough and your problem solving ability is above average. Yet, when it comes to decision making, make sure it is a consensus with the team (including your upline).

 

  1. Be Knowledgeable

This is where power reading comes in. Not reading Facebook comments, I mean reading thick book (150 pages above), cover to cover. Some magazines considered reading as well such as Fast Company, The Economist, Bloomberg, MIT Sloan and so on. Reading help you imagine the future you never experienced. For graduates, choose your materials widely.

Read magazines, real books (on management, creativity, science, fiction and so on) and please make yourself available to training programs. I found reading autobiography enjoyable – bios I’ve read are Arnold Schwazenegger, Sidney Poitier, Kuan Yew, Alex Ferguson, Tun Mahathir, Mydin, Boon Siew, Jay Z Gandhi, Jack Welch, Prophet Muhammad, Hamka and many more.

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It is ok to sound smart when you converse with your boss or colleagues. It helps your maturity and boost your confidence level when talking to someone when you know you are knowledgeable. Nonetheless, it is not okay if you pretend to be smart. Trying to goreng things you don’t know have its own limit – worse off when people can catch it. Being knowledgeable sometimes will make people around you feel threatened, do it anyway. Simply because when you become a big fish in a small pond, time to make that jump to bigger pond or go to the ocean instead.

Wrap Up

I believe many of seniors and professionals would agree with me the 5 tips above. There are many more of course, I found the above suffice for you to do and practice in the next 1-3 years of your initial career. If you still get stuck you can write me an email, we can take it offline. Maybe you need different help.

I found male and female graduates are wired differently (of course!). One thing in common I wish to emphasis is to not get overly obsessed to “be yourself”. You can be yourself when you are in private settings or in family environment where people can tolerate “yourself” over and over again. However, in public place or social setting, people are impatient and have very high expectation of each other (although each other know their own insecurities).

Therefore as someone that’s climbing the work ladder, open up yourself to be more accepting others’ and adjust yourself necessarily. Being overly yourself is akin to break the coconut too early to enjoy the coconut juice. Give yourself time to learn about others and pay attention on how you respond and react to those moments – soon you will learn more about yourself, really.

I wish you beshh of luck. Any brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

 

 

Just Don’t Be Leaders

Leadership is a very popular topic. Try to Google it, you’ll get millions of pages from all around the world. Leadership is one of many critical skills for modern workforce. Leadership has become the raison d etre of every level of employees particularly Executives and above. Leadership is a must have for every Top Management and C-suites. It is an important subject that companies around the world spent money on to develop their talents. There is one my favorite author and Master Coach wrote a book “Leading Without Title” – by Robin Sharma. It is a good book and easy to understand content. I’d reccommend you to have a copy and read. However leadership isn’t enough these days.

Please let me explain the 5 Why.

1. Too Many Leaders, Already

Robin Sharma says, “Leaders choose which mountain to climb, Managers will work on how to climb that mountain efficiently.” We have far too many “leaders” in organization these days. Don’t you think? Telling us they want this and that but have little notion and understanding on what it takes to get there. These leaders unapologetically make unrealistic demands that they themselves care little about.
2. Leaders Don’t Practice

Leaders sometimes are wishful thinkers. They have lots in their heads, but they share too little. They let their comrades and others to second guess their thoughts all the time. These leaders said we should share but they don’t practice what they preach. These leaders compare themselves a lot with their staffs. These leaders cunningly said, “I can think that’s why I am your leader (read boss).” Because of that when the staffs unable to deliver their wishes, they are called “poor performers”.

3. Leader Isn’t A Title

Guess what? Before modern organizations exist, leaders are made of those who get things done and make things happen – without a name card bearing their name with titles such as “Vice President, Managing Director, CEO, Head Finance, Operations Director etc…” Leaders of the olden days decide which mountain to climb and rally people around them and show them how to scale it efficiently. These leaders backgrounds are not based on creed or education level, they are measured based on the outcomes and impact to the world around them. They are very passionate individuals convinced others to follow their journey.

 

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4. Leaders Failed Executors

Because leaders are seen as higher management, they tend to over rule decision making at their on whimps and fancies. Although their comrades have presented the facts and figures to climb the mountain efficiently, these leaders intervene in the name of “bigger picture”. When things go wrong or sideways, these leaders let the executors face the music  alone, in the name of accountability. Leaders abandoned their crews.

5. Leaders Avoided Path Less Travelled

Leaders have bigger offices, salary, parking space and benefits. These comfort perks are highly prized by leaders. They sometimes think it is belong to them because they deserved it. What if one day these perks taken away from me? Therefore these leaders minimize their risks of making mistakes. They chose the common path therefore no mistake, as a result nothing new can be learned. They avoid mistakes in experiments that could go wrong. They are not willing to spend money on new venture because their perks will be taken away, if they make mistake.

Just don’t be leaders. These leaders.

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com