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.”
It’s clear to me now, that attitude is over rated. Attitude is a mental state or posture or perspective about something. I drag myself waking up every morning when I hear my 2 weeks baby cries, I had to wake up anyway because he needs feeding. He is hungry and I know very well that after I feed him I feel I have achieved something awesome for that moment. I will not regret.
Now picture this. My son has grown up and I still have to wake up every morning and drag myself to do 50 push-ups, 2 minutes plank and 2 minutes lower abs exercise. After that I will cycle for 30 minutes. I have to do this 4-5 times a week. Every time after I do these routines, I will feel great and awesome! I took on the day like a champ. However if I casually skip because my attitude towards it, I will find myself in a rut after 1 month. I wouldn’t be able to do even 10 reps push up, not 10 secs plank and I quickly drown spirally into that lethargic feeling. I become the person I don’t want to be.
The two stories to illustrate that attitude is not enough. We need fortitude. We need bravery to do things that are difficult and not fun. We need courage to do things that we don’t necessarily like. We need to take that bold action that we know if we do it we will gain. That’s changing attitude to fortitude.
To change the world and ourselves, we need more fortitude.
Attitude alone is not enough. In hard times, when you hit rock bottom, attitude matters less. You need fortitude. You need to get out and hit the road to run or walk or jog. All of us need fortitude. If you find yourself still struggling, that’s because you may have positive attitude yet your fortitude isn’t forthcoming enough yet.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
In light of global economic uncertainties in recent years (and still ongoing), I observed many organizations set up Transformation Office, Special Task Force and Delivery Office. These “new offices” are created to ensure the companies are able to be resilient enough to weather the uncertainties. Usually these “new offices” report directly to the Chief of the company.
When I sat down with the leaders in charge of these “new offices” they shared with me their plans. Information shared are from revenues, costs of operating, cycle time, capital expenditure, new business areas, business strategy moving forward, human capital planning, product planning, media, customer services and many others. One thing in common from this discussion, there are all hard data. Almost all (if not all) of them are derived from facts, figures, dollars and cents.
The leaders in charge showed me graphs, charts, prognosis, research papers, BI reports and news and statistics in multiple streams and various thickness level (they are very thick!). In some companies they also show me the Employee Opinion Survey (EOS) which was done by the HR department. Almost all this data above is quantitative data.
I also seek customer datapoint beyond the usual survey, checklist and market reports, and surprisingly not many companies have them. The “new offices” pointed me to the customer service department, but when I asked them for qualitative customer data they don’t have it too. What is qualitative data?
Qualitative data includes customers interviews, pictures of actual customer interactions with services and products, customers complaints list, videos of customer journeys, customers profiles & personas, social media insights, demographics & psychographics information and customers testimonials.
The reason I brought up this topic because both data ie. hard data (quantitative) and heart data (qualitative) are equally important. I also observed that most quantitative data isn’t accessible by most staffs, whilst most qualitative data isn’t reachable by the top management.
Do you now see the datapoints gap? (Image below) That’s probably the reason why, the top leaders have little understanding of customer orientation (for large companies this is common), and the frontline staffs wondering why no new ideas implemented to win (or win back) the customers.
I also observed a lot of data has been filtered when going up and going down by middle managers, supervisors and team leaders who are in between top leaders and frontline staffs. We need to start accepting that heart data (qualitative) is equally important to our businesses.
In our design thinking workshop, we focus on drilling into the qualitative (heart) data points. What customers feel, what are the insights, how the staffs feel, where does usually the tension happen, why people buy, with whom the customers like to buy from, why customers prefer that branch compared to this branch and so many others!
Heart data can help you find new business opportunities, obvious profitable ideas and improve customers satisfaction.
Beyond quanti, factor in quali!
Khairul observes when leaders are open to multiple data points, they become likeable!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“We have plenty of great ideas. We went to many conferences, pitch to variety people and talk to potential customers. But in the end we know we got to eat the innovation sandwich. Out innovative ideas was just the meat right in the middle – leaves it much to be desired.”
This one comment of many feedbacks from managers and talents that I received from the people that I work with in workshops. Several times I had heart to heart discussion with some of them on how we could take corporate innovation further, all they say “the bosses should be willing listen to us sincerely.
The situation they are in can be paraphrased in the words of Ed Catmull of Pixar, “Give great idea to mediocre team,they will screw it up. Give mediocre idea to great team, they will either fix it or come up with something better.”
Listen to this bosses, when the team is made of great people, all bosses need to do is to encourage and give confidence. Although some ideas aren’t similar,bosses got to play long in corporate innovation game. When your team is encouraged and motivated, they would want more, this is when you drive them.
There are situations when the team said “Bosses always push in their ideas and they pursued it to respect bosses wishes.” This is when the innovation team becomes the Innovation Sandwich – victim of the situation. Their energy drained, unfocus and worst they burned out. Energy wasted. Brickbats please send to firstname.lastname@example.org
The year 2015 has been an aweshemm year for some and trying year for another. As for me, it has been a mix of both. Towards the end, my team and I at DT LEADERSHIP, finally concluded (today!) that it was an aweshemm year indeed. 🙂
Three things that attracted our interest has always been design thinking, leadership and top talent development. We engaged few hundreds people this year in the three domains above. It feels aweshemm and enlightening! Thanks so much.
I wish to highlight three highlights that captured my personal attention. The designs may be great, good or oopss; but they did catch my attention.
1. Miss Universe 2015 & Steve Harvey
Unexpectedly, I believed, Mr Harvey (the host and winner announcer), wrongly announced the winner. You could see the full video here – Miss Universe 2015 Announcement. He did the right thing, albeit the mistake, admitted that he wrongly announced it and quickly announced the right winner (Miss Philippines the right winner). The mistake later attributed (besides Harvey mistake) was the announcement card was poorly designed therefore confusing (see below). It was chaotic for a while but sorted, well done!
2. OXO Measuring Cup
I recently watched GEL Conference 2015 held at New York City – video Alex Lee @ GEL Conference. President of OXO kitchenwares, Mr Alex Lee, talked about OXO’s measuring cup. It was really nice (see below). It solved our human-problem to keep looking whether the liquid reach the right level yet or not. Usually we will stoop to keep checking, with OXO new measuring cup, you don’t have to do that! Brilliant design! Interestingly during their initial research, none of the users mentioned the action of “keep looking up and down” was a problem. However, OXO design team has keen eyes for users behaviours, so they spot it. Now this measuring cup selling by millions around the world.
3. Pop Corn Royale @TGV Cinema
I brought my family recently to TGV Cinema to watch a movie – “The Good Dinosaur”. We havent been out for a get together for some time. We decided to enjoy our time a little bit more. The kids loved the Pop Corn Royale Caramel (see below). However, when we arrived we found out that the Caramel has been replaced by a new flava – the Cool Mint. I hesitated to buy (while queueing) because pop corn and mint – hmmmm…My turn came and I asked “Is the Cool Mint nice?” “What happen to the Caramel?”. I was amazed by the response I received from the guy who was at the counter – “You should try, let me take some of it.” He smiled and offered us to try without any hesitation. We tried and we loved it!
It looks to me, the service design as simple as “offer trial or offer sampling on the fly” helps customer to feel safe and build trust. I could tell that this guy is aweshemm because while his supervisor wasn’t that appreciative of what he tried to do – “make me feel safe to try the new flava.” The experience was fantastic, I recommended the Cool Mint for you as well! 😉 Well done TGV!
There you go, as we wrapped 2015 those are the things that captured my attention. So what’s next for 2016? Because our interest are in design thinking, leadership and top talent, we asked ourselves four questions for us to dig deeper in the coming 2016. Here are the questions:
How might we retain our top talent in cross countries and global projects that rely in virtual teams set up?
How might we create a safe environment for senior operational leaders help the top talents grow exponentially in their career?
How might we rapidly develop new products and services that customers love in our verticals?
How might we improve our service design (people, process, tech and planet) to increase our bottomline / profits?
That’s all for now. We look forward to see you in 2016!
In the last few years OD has become very popular framework to redesign holistic people & leaders development for large organizations. In this “renewed” war on talent, where it is no longer about quantity of talent that matters rather it is more about quality or right talent that is in dire need for most organizations. Although we hear several companies in manufacturing, banking and IT are making layoffs, the way I see it these companies are retaining and keeping their best talents braving the perfect storm coming their way.
One common theme in OD is mentoring and coaching. I have worked with several clients to design part of OD components (few get implemented), but often OD becomes a long list of training programs after training programs with various consultants and trainers (internal and external). There is little thought in optimizing the OD outcomes to the organization. I think we shortchanged ourselves by not taking advantage of mentoring. The mentoring portion often not implemented because “too much resources needed” to roll out.
Here I wish to share how organizations can take advantage of mentoring in OD. This is simple, practical and implementable at small scale, which later can be scaled up further.
A. Decide 1-2 mentoring goals. Yes, just one or two goals first. I learn from behavioural change model, once we are able to change one or two behaviours, our confident level improves and we start to tackle other challenges next. Example mentoring goals are:
Developing leaders for non-core businesses
Retaining Gen-Y workforce in key positions
Promoting high performance Gen-X for global expansion
Improve customers base for new products and services
Supporting emerging leaders for career direction
Encouraging leaders to learn and develop each other
B. Find and recruit the people and leaders that most attracted to mentoring and people development. Often not all top executives love mentoring idea because they need to make time for it. However, OD chief needs to be able to present a compelling business case for it. Prep sometime with the CEO prior this engagement. Bring along several key talents in the initial meeting to convince the CEO.
C. Present a business case that outlines the following:
Business SWOT – Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat
Skills available and acquired in the company – identify the leaders (potential mentors)
Skills required and needed in the company – identify the content (potential faculties)
Rolling out plan and scheduling (start small – have 2-3 mentors assigned to less than 10-12 talents)
Guidelines, processes and coordination (keep it minimal and spartan)
Measurement of outcomes and duration (6-12 months is enough)
Monitoring plan and expectations
Proposed investment (only include this once the rest has been thoroughly discussed with CEO and CFO)
D. Say if you still find it difficult, here you can do it the stealth way:
Find organizational leaders that love people.
Find talents that show exceptional performance and demonstrate leadership qualities.
Conduct 30-45 minutes behavioural interviews with your colleague or partners.
Find good matching between the leaders (mentors) and talents (protégés)
Speak to friendly direct supervisors of this plan (recruit the direct supervisor to oversee the development)
Prepare some basic guidelines for mentors and protégés.
Roll out under stealth mode.
I personally feel that mentoring has strong and deep developmental advantages other than training programs. Mentoring has talent retaining effect too!
Having a basic level mentoring program would enhance training programs done in the company because the participants will contextualized what they learn and relate it back to the organization when meeting with their mentors.
Besides, the developmental programs can be more targeted and expanded based on feedbacks from the mentors.
Leadership development is very key in today’s business environment. The leaders are getting younger, leadership cycle is getting shorter and the cost to retain good leaders is getting higher. If you desire to become great leaders, consider this suggestion.
Here are the 3 teachable things on goal setting and behavioural change that highly successful leaders can use to get better at their game (General Goal – Behaviour Desired – If Then Action)
1. Build better relationships with the sales team to improve sales numbers.
Commit one hour per week for lunch with sales team members to get to know them and understand how to motivate and dealing with them.
If I am reviewing my weekly schedule on Monday morning, then I will call a sales team member to schedule for a lunch meeting.
2. Become more personally connected to my subordinates.
Participate with subordinate one time per week in informal activities to learn more about their personal lives.
If I am invited to join the team lunch or birthday celebration, then I will find a way to make time and say yes.
3. Demonstrate strategic thinking.
Offer my support or be assertive to critique of proposed strategy and the reasoning behind my position.
If a discussion about strategy occurs during executive team meeting, then I will offer my opinion concerning the proposed strategy along with my rationale.
While there are many things we could teach leaders, there are 5 Unteachable things that we can’t. Here are the 5 things, according to my friend, Mr Ridzuan Buasan (Senior Vice President, Talent Management and Organizational Development at Prasarana Malaysia Berhad)
Will – defined as the “ability to control your thoughts and actions in order to achieve what you want to do.”
Drive – defined as the “strong desire or need in people.”
Agility – defined as the “ability to move quickly and easily.”
Sincerity – defined as the “act of showing feelings or beliefs of what you really feel or think.”
Passion – defined as the “very strong feeling of love, hatred, anger or enthusiasm.”
Leaders, start teaching while you can because it is the hallmark of super great leaders. Great leaders? Teach!
Its been bothering me for sometime to pen down this post. Does the success of social entrepreneurs matter? I teach, train and consult companies and start ups on design thinking, management and leadership. Lately the engagement has been around social enterprises (SE). I jaw dropped to learn that SE in Malaysia is growing expansively and there are many social entrepreneurs around. It is a great news and I learn so much about their businesses and most importantly their causes.
I found most social entrepreneurs are driven by their volition to make change. They are change makers. They are the square peg in a round hole. They are the misfits where they can’t settle with seeing broken things, especially societies that are broken apart.
In the words of Otto Scharmer, Professor at MIT and Chairman of MIT Ideas, there are “Disconnects” all around us that are structural. These “Disconnects”, after sometimes somehow gone unsettled. The old way of dealing with change is over, we need to now anticipate change and take it by our hands. Two of the “Disconnects” captured my attention.
“Disconnect between the infinite growth imperative and the finite resources of the planet Earth. The overuse of scarce resources such as soil and water has led to of a third of agricultural land globally.”
“Disconnect between Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and well being. Research has shown that higher GDP and higher material consumption doesnt translate to well being.”
I found these “Disconnect” disturbing. There are other 4 which you can find in his book Theory U.
When I met these social entrepreneurs they usually shared their challenges, pain points, constraints, doubts, fears, problems and many more. Some of them even wonder why were they in social enterprises at the 1st place? My answer to them, “How would I know?” Social entrepreneurs are people that wake up every morning telling themselves that “I am going to make a difference in somebody’s life.” At some junction, they sometimes feel their life is more miserable than the people they serve through their enterprises. I listen attentively to most of their sharing. Why would the social entrepreneurs such hardship is their success doesn’t matter to anyone?
In one social enterprise I know, the lady founder has to tolerate with “fussy” homeless families. These families prefer not to join her re-skilling program because they find it hard to follow – “It is tiring” they said. In another social enterprise, the youth founders said they have trained 50 rural areas change agents but only 2 turned up to be change makers, the rest are just passive agents.
My question is, does the success of social entrepreneurs matter?
If it matters, why when they face so much challenges they only receive very little help? if it matters, why most corporate leaders are still oblivious to benefits gained? If it matters, how can we collectively ensure the success? If their social enterprises become successful, the impact to the target group is manifold. It makes the world a better place, perhaps.
However, if it doesn’t matter, what is all the buzz about social entrepreneurship? If it doesn’t matter who are going to address the “Disconnects” above? If it doesn’t matter, who is going to look after our future generation? The recent and current generations have used up a lot of the finite resources on Earth.
Now, if the success of social entrepreneurs matter, to whom does it matter? Taking the insights of using design thinking for social innovation, picking the right stakeholders and hit it hard is very important. Yes, we can have tonnes of ideas but if we missed the right target group, the impact is poor. While design thinking as the methodology can help unleash our creative potential, we need more social entrepreneurs to “do” things.
Leaders from big business and corporates Malaysia could reach out more to social entrepreneurs and extend hands to improve the success of social entrepreneurs. Don’t wait in the high office for the proposals to come to your desk. They might not because it is gated at your PA table.
If the success of social entrepreneurs matter, we need to humanize their experience and find ways so we can help them cross the “death bridge” successfully and sustainably. Otherwise, all of us need to find a new Earth to exploit, crash and burn.
Tough cookie can be real tough. There is a title of a book by Robert H. Schuller, “Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do”. When was the last time you had to deal with these people? Apparently part of journey to become top leaders, a leader must face off with tough cookie.
Remember those days when we were kids, we could simply shout, push back and kick those bad guys in the pants – hey how sometimes I wish that might work at work place. But, tough cookie at work place operates differently. Right?
Let’s do the acid test on how to identify tough cookie at work place:
1) WORD-LESS – these people neither give suggestion or feedback. They just shut off and continue their work the way they believe is right. Often, you need to keep going back to correct the same mistakes.
2) SARCASTIC JOKER – humour me can be fun but sarcasm doesn’t work well when its too much. They like to talk about things that don’t work aeons ago and magnify disproportionate risks on new ideas.
3) SEE BUT DISBELIEVE – they prefer to see situations as “no solution” after first few attempts. Saying “no” is their automated response. Instead, we should learn how to see “what’s the real problem is” and have faith in search of excellence.
4) PERSON BEFORE PROBLEM – “whatever coming out from his mouth is fouled”. Blanket accusation like this is a dysfunctional behavior. Their inability to evaluate and be critical to the problem at hands can jeopardize decision making for the organization.
Here is the advise from the best. Ram Charan was asked, as leader “What can’t be taught?”. He answered, “Leader needs the mental capability and tenacity to knit their inferences into something meaningful and the imagination to think of new options. Leader needs the courage to go on the offensive based on your subjective judgments. You can’t be a wimp – make the tough calls.”
Innovation is a tricky business. It is tricky because you are NOT going to get it right the first time. Yes, it upsets a lot of people in the quality and production departments. It boils the blood of the financial controllers and accountants. Innovation also going to frustrate your marketing department because of the changing consumers mind. Typical change management framework and processes might have to change, as well.
On the flip side, innovation has hues of greatstuffs. It enlarges the possibilities that you initially thought a constraint. It motivates your sales people to try something out of the box. It triggers your vice president’s thinking to reimagine the service you provide to new customers segment. Innovation celebrates fail early and fail often (of new things) because persistence will always take us to greener path. Innovation generates new revenue streams and give you the confidence that things are not so bad after all.It gives breath of fresh air to get unstuck in mind-numbing headquarters strategy presentation that has become so out of touch from the customers. Innovation unleashes the creative potential within us all. Innovation offers window for behavioral change in all organization around the world.
There are many ways that we can innovate – from the very basic and chaos creativity skill such as “randomness – just think of something great” or “just throw stuffs there and see what happen” to the most complex and quantifiable research on creativity. One technique that I wish to share is using design thinking method. There are several versions of the method, the one I have competence and experience is from the d.school Stanford University and Hasso-Platner Institute (click here to know more). I have been a practitioner and great fan of innovation and creativity tools, but design thinking transcended all other tools.
Design thinking helps uncover something that was unknown. What you are doing is rediscovering what you already have. It enlarges our capacity to imagine, be creative and build upon big ideas. Creative energy is one of our most precious resources – said Tom Kelley in his book, PDF – Creative Confidence. Using design thinking, we can address a wide variety of business, personal, customer, social and complex challenges in creative new ways, said David Kelley (Tom’s brother) of IDEO.
The CEO of ideacouture, Idris Mootee in his book, Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation said that design thinking is “disruptive and provocative by nature because it promotes new ways of looking at problems”. I find this very true. I had one client who attended my workshop on design thinking said she never thought that it is possible to look at the problem in this new way before this.
Jessica runs an insurance company and the “customers” that they always have in mind is the new subscriber of their insurance. However, in the course of the design thinking workshop she jumped out and said I have been focusing on my customer all wrong. My actual customers are the claimants. That’s where the “pain points” stuff happen. No wonder she said, that sales have been dwindling because in the market their actual customers have been very unhappy about her company.
Another example I came across is from entrepreneur development centre. They have been running programs after programs to build entrepreneurs. As part of the program, the entrepreneurs were later can offer services to the centre. So its a great deal and worth going through the program. However, after some time there are less people attending and the entrepreneurs somewhat hesitant to offer their services. This is unusual. They dig deeper using design thinking method during the workshop. Apparently the issue stemmed from the account department. The entrepreneurs were paid very late (more than 6 months) and when they get paid using cheques, there are always errors and misprints. As an entrepreneur myself, cash flow is king. They “fired” the entrepreneur development centre as their customers.
In a book, Stories of What Works – Solving Problems Using Design Thinking published by Columbia Business School, there was one story from Dublin that captured my attention. A story about public old folks centre. This centre provide shelter and subsidized food for senior citizens. While most of the senior citizens enjoyed meeting new friends with enlarged social circle, the food served there wasn’t to their liking. Same old same old. Fortunately, after some time the centre decided to do something innovative and brought in a team of design thinkers. The project is called the The Good Kitchen. (video below)
One anecdotes that stand out to me was the design thinking team found out that all the “cooks” were “chefs”. These are real chefs that had superb experience working on cruises, 5-star hotels and can cook really well. However, when the management decided to be “overly efficient” with the ingredients they buy and “strategically plan” the menu for months ahead, the chefs said “not much we can do”. Besides, the chefs can no longer do food styling, seasoning and other details hence the bland and boring food. After rounds of workshops with the stakeholders – municipality, mayor, senior citizens and so on, they decided to make small change with big impact. They changed title “cooks” to “chefs” to reflect the actual experiences and skills. This boosted morale and dignity of the senior citizens. They dressed the chefs well and they started to redesign the menu offerings. In short, they re-imagined the kind of food service that is more apt and caring to the senior citizens.
One final story is from a high school counsellor. His school has been doing a lot (which school doesn’t ?!) to find ways to discipline the students. They have tried many ways including some forms of corporal punishment but somehow it makes things worse. How much more corporal punishment needed? As a counsellor, he knows this won’t work.
During the design thinking workshop, an idea sparked. He prototyped the idea instantly in class and he received outstanding reviews from his colleagues in the workshop. His idea was to ask every student on their wishes of how to make the school better and harmony so everybody is safe with each other. He told me later, at the initial actual implementation he said the students were surprised by the change of “regime” but they contributed anyway. Simple things are being implemented for example, the students wish the teachers could smile more. Next, extend the lights out at 11 pm instead of 10 pm because most of them prefer to do homework at dormitory instead of study room. Another, weekend outing to start earlier at 8 am instead of 10 am so the students can spend more time with their family and friends outside the school. Simple stuffs that worked. The students are happier and less discipline issues occurred, somehow.
This is actually a title from a book that I recently bought at a discount. I love discounted books and I have been very lucky that this book is one of the books that I bought at significant ROI – at least 1,000%. I have bought several other books with similar ROI – Fifth Discipline (Peter Senge), Origin of Brand (Al Ries) and Good to Great (Jim Collins). These are great books and I was very lucky. Coming back to this book that I just read, the actual title is “How 25 Teen-Trepreneurs Succeeded and Left World Leaders Scratching Their Heads”. It is actually a compilation of entrepreneurs stories by Sabirul Islam – very prolific young entrepreneur. Check him out.
“Anger, frustration and a serious call for change. This is the reaction of today’s youth on being labelled ‘the lost generation’. But are the youth of today really a lost generation?” This is the opening of the book at the Introduction page. It captures the very essence of “perception” of youth around the world today. I remember attending Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES 2013) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where youth entrepreneurs around the world were a significant force. They are mostly from 3rd world countries and developing nations. Their “solutions” to social problems around them are very straight forward and inspiring. There was one African youth whose business is selling thumb drive softcopy of text books. Another Bangladeshi entrepreneur selling organic fertilizer – which he gave me a bottle to try out. Are they a lost generation?
This book by Sabirul Islam contains 25 interviews of successful youth role models who are true leaders of youth in their fields and have achieved extraordinary success in short period of time. They are the ambassadors of true grit for youth around the world to emulate and get inspired regardless of color and creed. The spectacular part of all these 25 teen-trepreneurs are all under 30 years old! Are they a lost generation?
Let’s find out some of the key highlights (in Q&A format) from the interviews. If you want full stories, I suggest you get this book yourself. 😉
1. What drives you as an individual to continue to do what you do?
“Knowing that I will be making a difference and serving others. The passion to pass along the things that I have been taught. The freedom and flexibility I create in my life by not working for someone else and creating the foundation for a financially secure future.”- Alexandra DiRuscio Cooper (Founder, Your Life Our World)
2. How have personal development programs helped you?
“They’ve had huge impact on my life. When I attended the first program at age 15, I was still a bit reserved and unsure who I was, trying to fit in. But that one event is what I credit that help me to break through. It opened my eyes what I had been missing out because I was playing small, I was holding back and I was uncertain. I gained confidence and determination.” – Alexandra DiRuscio Cooper (Founder, Your Life Our World)
3. What are three most important attributes you’ve developed as a young entrepreneur?
“Persistence, organization and solid critical thinking.” – Ben Weissenstein (Founder, Grand Slam Garage Sales”)
4. If you were the President, what would you do or what would you change to encourage growth in youth entrepreneurship?
“I’d have lots of programs to teach entrepreneurship and also to give seed money to aspiring young entrepreneurs. There are a lot of entrepreneurs who, with little funding help could really get off the ground.” – Ben Weissenstein (Founder, Grand Slam Garage Sales”)
5. What is the best solution for youth who have tried but failed to get where you are today?
“Try again, again and again! Find your passion and desires in it! If you want to a very successful business just find a very huge problem you see and try to solve it for everyone.” – Boris Kolev (Founder JT International)
6. In today’s world, what would you ultimately is more valuable, education or experience?
“The most valuable is education through experience. We have to define what we mean by the word education because I think experience is a key part of education.” – Boris Kolev (Founder JT International)
7. You seem to have had many jobs before you became the successful entrepreneur, at what point in your life did you realize that jobs weren’t your way forward?
“What I wanted was spare time doing my own thing, work with my own hours and be passionate about what I was doing – do something I loved. It’s hard to do when you have a job. I cant stand people telling me how much money I am going to earn and hours I am going to work. It’s my life so I am going to decide.” – Carly Ward (Founder, Young Entrepreneurs Society)
8. How has social media helped you to become a successful entrepreneur?
“Social media has been an integral part of my business. I have got some friends of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I can reach thousands people with social media. My mentor actually found me on LinkedIn. He is a successful entrepreneur and an angel investor. I got random message from him, “I like what you’re doing, can I help in any way?” and three months later he was my mentor and a non-executive director of my company.” – Carly Ward (Founder, Young Entrepreneurs Society)
9. How did you come with the idea to develop the multi-bucket carrier and what was your vision behind it?
“When I was 16, I noticed that people in Africa mainly women and children were walking in distance carrying two buckets of water. One of their shoulders and another on their hands. Using local materials I design multi-bucket carrier that can carry up to five buckets of water. I later distributed the instructions how to make it for local people to produce themselves.” – Emily Cummins (The Serial Inventor)
10. What have been the major challenges that you’ve faced when developing your products?
“The major challenge was my age. Initially some people looked at me as a younger person but when I showed them I what invented they find it very refreshing especially at my creativity. I also had to convince my parents that I was very capable to go to Africa on my own.” – Emily Cummins (The Serial Inventor)
11. How has travelling helped you to become the inspirational figure that you are?
“I believe the fastest way to inspire someone is to be inspired. The fastest way to inspire yourself is to do what you love and invest in yourself to feel alive. For me I gain that through travelling. I love to fly and be in the air, experience new culture, be in transition, meet new people and be stretched out of my comfort zone. It’s where I find perhaps my greatest appreciation for each moment.” – Emily Gowor, The Word Artist
12. Are the youth of today good enough to be world leaders?
“People will believe whatever they want to believe. People who consider youth to be unfit to be the world leaders are firstly, judging based on their lenses. Is there a rule about what a world leader should look like? If there is or was, I didn’t learn it in school. I haven’t seen any two leaders following the same script. Someday we will be old as well and new youth generation will come.” Emily Gowor, The Word Artist
13. What would you say unique about yourself?
“I consider myself a normal kid. The only difference is that my extracurricular activity has been business instead of sports or music. I helped my mum’s business since I was nine years old.” – Jason O’Neill, Founder, Pencil Bugs
14. Who has provided the most support to you during your journey as a young entrepreneur?
“My parents definitely are my biggest supporters. Without them there would not even have been a business. I sometimes hear other young entrepreneurs say that they run their business alone but that is usually not true. It takes a lot of help from many people to make someone successful. Even the most successful adults have people on their team.
15. How did you manage to pull yourself out from poverty in Brazil?
“The only way you can leave poverty and negativity behind is by being able to rise above your circumstances with your mind first. You need to be self reliant, especially if you have no role models. Leave the bad influences and friends behind, and make replaced them with books as companions. Set goals and not give up easily until you achieve what you want.” – Pedro De Abreu, Co-Founder, Moofaces
16. What are the change society needs for youth at young age?
“It is important that youth and society in general to open their eyes around them. Stop being so self-centered. It seems many focus on unimportant things such as hair, make up, clothes and adults are always concern about money and what their neighbours or friends have. We also judge others (youth and adults like) too quickly. We need to focus on the good in each of us.” Cassandra Perkins, Founder, Global Voices Reaching Out
I have purposely selected the questions and answers to provide breadth of the context and topics. Check out the full interview in this book. – “How 25 Teen-Trepreneurs Succeeded and Left World Leaders Scratching Their Heads”
In conclusion, I don’t think our youth is a lost generation wherever they are. In fact youth today is a force to be reckon with and I think we should embrace them with open arms. I also believe the more senior generation that has greater responsibility should reach out more to youth and groom them further through providing various opportunities including the basic such as time and thoughts. Its more than enough for a start.