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:
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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks!
“Personas” is a creative tool you can use to distinctively segment your ideal customers. They are usually fictional that resembles groups and clusters of actual people. Here some definition to help you understand:
“A persona is a representation of a user, typically based off user research and incorporating user goals, needs, and interests.” – www.uxbooth.com
“The purpose of personas is to create reliable and realistic representations of your key audience segments for reference. These representations should be based on qualitative and some quantitative data.” – www.usability.gov
“Personas represent people that are related to a concept, but are generic so they cover a large number of real people. They also have all of their details specified (e.g., where they’re from, their values and motivations, their job) to help designers empathize with their needs.” – www.openIDEO.com
Here are some samples of “Personas” to get you familiarize with it:
Personas of Users for An Online Video Tool
Personas of Digital Shoppers
Personas of Facebook Users
We can create “Personas” for every business and across industries.
So what are your “Personas”? Try it yourself.
From Khairul’s experiences running Design Thinking workshops and coaching, he found his clients become more imaginative as soon as the “Personas” have been identified.
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.
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.
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.
Leadership is today’s buzz word akin to management in the 1980’s. You probably have been asked at least once, “Are you a leader or manager?”. Of course the right answer is “leader” because it is incumbent that all of us must be one, at least to be relevant in today’s organization. But how to become great leader?
Robin Sharma once in his book said that a leader decides which mountains to climb and a manager decides how to climb it efficiently. I think that analogy makes it easier to distinguish the function of leader v. manager. I juggle both most of the time and I believe most of us do the same. Right?
I was at a client’s office late afternoon last week. I was waiting for the Chairman long enough to strike a conversation with one of the managers, whom happened to be the Human Resource Manager. She is leading the organization’s academy and we exchanged smiles – and we talk. Replying to her question, I said my coaching is targeted to top talent – making top talents even better and hopefully they stay longer. Besides, my leadership program for managers and leaders is to enable them learn how to teach. She shared her stories of going through a particular coaching program, NLP programs, EQ and so on. She is a very prolific manager and hungry for new knowledge. She is quick to share her coaching experiences with talents around her but except these talents are not internal but external to her organization. According to her it is not possible to share her knowledge internally because no one would appreciate – she hasn’t tried yet. She hasn’t got over the feeling yet to drive the coaching initiative for her organization. She doesn’t know where to start. What a waste.
Large organizations are endowed with this wealth of experienced managers and leaders at all areas. They are groomed from ground up (most of them), defended the organizations through thick and thin and possess deep knowledge of the organization trade secrets. Unfortunately they don’t have the platform to showcase and transfer this latent and tacit knowledge embedded in them for years. So much knowledge sedimented in the same body and brain for years. These are not top leaders and senior management that may come and go – I am referring to prolific managers and leaders that are on the ground; servicing the customers and take the brickbats from their direct reports. We must do something.
One of the ways to scoop out this deep seated knowledge is through making these managers and leaders learn how to teach. This “teaching approach” has been used by General Electric, PepsiCo, Southwest Airline, Home Depot, Cisco, DARPA and many global organizations. Just look at yourself, someone must have taught you well. So it worked! Hence, we need to make our organizations teach and learn from each other. Best if the top management learn how to teach their experiences and the rest will ultimately follow.
You can start by getting the managers and leaders go deep down themselves to truly understand what is it they are very good at. This is call Teachable Point Of View (TPOV). Jack Welch (former CEO of GE) in his own words said, “As a great leader, you need to have teachable point of view.” TPOV helps managers to focus on their ultimate strengths and dissect them into learning curriculum. Say for example a Marketing Manager may be good at product launching. So he will create his TPOV based on product launching. He will gather all his experiences related to product launch (its successes and failures) and organize it to match his organization needs – and the best part he is doing this to teach his engineering department about product launching! This applies to all other managers and leaders from various department.
Coming back to the Human Resource Manager, her eyes lit up when I shared that with her. She now plan to make 2015 as her experimental year from just a manager to becoming a great leader through teaching. Wish her good luck!
“I may have overused DT tool because I conveniently used it in several occasion, and the latest was during a strategic meeting to evaluate a partnership proposal.” – That was my starting remarks when I shared my personal experience using DT tool at genovasi aka (Malaysian DT House). Let me tell you why.
From my personal experience, “a tool and a fool seldom differ”. Hence learning how to use the tool is paramount and foundational to anyone, and by knowing how to use it to your advantage is a skill and a gift. A tool helps me to put things in perspective and find the relationship of various information. Just like a hammer that helps you to pound nails so you can hang your jacket. But if you decide to “think” like a hammer where you pound on everything, please be reminded that – “a tool and a fool seldom differ”. I have been using A3 report introduced by Toyota to build business case, I used Porter’s Five Forces to analyze market and I used my intuition to give that second opinion about affairs of the heart. 🙂
Now, why Design Thinking (DT) tool? Simply because it is one of the tools that I learned inside out where with the help of the coaches at genovasi; my team and I learn its application and limitation. Briefly, DT is a human-centered tool where the ultimate focus is to humanize the solution for optimum users satisfaction. You can use this problem-solving tool to create new products, services or in my case to evaluate business proposal. It is humanly possible to learn how to use DT tool and it is also almost impossible for your solution to go wrong if you adopt DT as part of your solutioning design. Nevertheless, just like any tool, DT has its own critics, which I wont touch here. Now let me summarize my own DT experience in the 5 steps and how I used them.
At this stage, my team and I discuss the broad view of the Why, What, When, Who, Where and How about this partnership proposal. Since this partner is an international partner, we are very serious in making sure we put all things on the table. I found getting all team members to Check-in help to uncover their emotional state during that discussion.
We exchanged numerous questions, choose certain key words and drill down further and help ourselves with coffee and tea at the same time. 😛 We used post-it notes and flipcharts. The purpose of this is simple, to put things up and let everyone see it. It gets everyone involved and be part of the solution. This step is critical in getting everybody on one-page and clarify matters early. This step is explicitly discussed and practiced in DT process.
We also ask people outside from our circle and get their feedbacks on partnering with international business ventures.
In some occasion we meet to discuss issues surrounding our objectives. Surprisingly, many of the people we met were rich with tacit experience and knowledge in these areas. This is the power of conversation which is hammered on in DT process.
We also shared our vision using a journey map to get their thoughts and learn their reservations, which could help us in the long run.
We got back from all these interactions and unpack our thoughts and share it out.
Of course, as a DT practitioner I don’t really say things like, “Let use DT and unpack”.
I use DT tool and processes without acknowledging it, I just guide our session through and it takes several days.
Unlike in our program @ genovasi where we have to quickly get it done (because of time limitation), but here I really take them through and get them to buy in especially my team because it takes only one believe that “this is not worth our time” to drop everything. Besides, in the process we also are in on-going communication with the international partners to shape this proposal.
In the process, we try to define the Point of View (POV) of our international partners. Navigating the international waters is very challenging with differences in time, culture, communication and perception. I recently learned that a “mediator” in Middle East is understood as “someone that meddle things up”. How about that? So we really need to define the people that we are dealing with and to avoid any prejudice or negative perception. We finally identified several POVs and we agreed to dive further and move forward.
With clear POVs and after getting feedbacks from various people, we started to Ideate possible scenarios and situations that would help us uncover some information to validate our assessment. We also internally discuss and sometimes argue whether what we choose is acceptable to avoid any the curse of knowledge and setback of incremental judgment. Just like in other DT session, we allow as many ideas, similarly here where we let people throw in any thinking that come cross their mind. I also let people to ask question so they can substantiate and clarify their idea to gain further understanding.
We end up with three scenarios (which remained confidential) and we internally tested them in several engagements. We iterated a few of them and we earned better confident level now. We also build further communication strategy on our prototypes and humanize it further. It is important to always remember that it is not about “us” or/and ‘them”, its always about achieving our mutual goals. This is difficult to do and I have to continuously remind myself, because it is easy to fall trap in either one and forget the goals and objectives. At the end of all this, we need to satisfy both parties hence the goals are sacred to us all.
Gladly, we ran several testing session and we are very happy with the results. We make some changes in the prototypes as we learn new information, especially in the POVs. The continuous conversation and discussion internally and externally help us to formulate the right solution to achieve our goals.
In conclusion, DT helps me to help my organization making better decision in evaluating this partnership proposal.
It improves my ability to exert creative confidence, provoke my own and team thinking, expand the team’s capability, strengthen trust and build strong determination to shape the right solution. Of course, with more practice I would do better in using this tool because human is unpredictable; and that quality makes DT even more interesting as a human-centered tool. It is fluid yet structured, it is fun yet strenuous and it break rules yet build trusts.
You can learn DT tool from internet, just Google Design Thinking. There are many courses and article about it right now and its free. You can buy a book on Design Thinking, again just Google or go to bookstores near you. But what truly a big difference in my own DT learning journey was the passion and patience that genovasi coaches have demonstrated throughout 10-weeks of real DT lessons @ Malaysia DT House in Petaling Jaya. This program was in partnership with Hasso Platner Institute (HPI) and it is also taught at Stanford University. I couldn’t be more thankful to Prime Minister’s Department for initiating this awesome program and to let genovasi team be on the driver’s seat to drive this – they are just the right team and at the right time.
My sincere thank you and big-hearted congratulations go to The Ultimate Genovasi Team; Carol Wong, Mahadzir, Azman, Michelle, Mike, Foong Wai, Firdaus, Suyin, Teck Hin, Jun-Elle, Fazlina, Genie, and not forgetting our Outreach Project Partner (OPP) and also other genovasi team members. Special thanks to all IADP 3D intakes members, you guys rawks!
Leadership is both art and science. It means it is unique to that person yet it can be learned methodically from one person to another. My journey to learn about leadership is about the same, i saw what my leaders do and i follow. I practice the good ones and congruent with my own values that I appreciate. In the process I also learn to let go some leadership characteristics that I found later to be excessively manipulative and with prejudice. Besides, through reading and observing how other leaders and followers interacting, I learn a great deal as well.
Now, I have learn to form up my own leadership characteristics and styles that I call Leadership Beliefs. There are EIGHT of them, I have to do a deep thinking to really extract out these beliefs. It is deep seated inside me and direct the way I respond (sometimes react) to situations in my own life and see the world. When I apply them it looks natural to me, nevertheless I do hope to refine them over time. The reason I do this is to codify these beliefs so I can remember during challenging assignments and projects. Nothing beats writing it down and drill it into the mind!
1) Powerful conversation can change life
I always look for different and powerful conversations in my life. I had a number of them although not many people are open for it. Powerful conversation makes you think and usually push you to greater heights. Words can be life changing.
2) Have a vision, it’s very important. What’s your WHY?
Simple statement that we call vision can help you believe in what you do in trying times. Without, I find myself go with the flow then drown in the “busy-ness” of day-to-day things. Have your WHY, then your How and What will follow suit.
Here’s my WHY: “I am the source ENERGY to CREATE MORE and BETTER touch points for leaders to create more and better touch points to make the world a better place.”
3) Develop people and yourself
It is easy to give someone opportunity, however to provide enough support to make that someone successful or excel a different matter altogether. Often, as leaders the opportunity we give is work in disguise but we also need to relentlessly ensure the work get’s done. I am in the opinion that only with sheer commitment to develop ownself can a leader gives more to develop others. Leaders are readers.
4) Do leap when behind
Sometimes, I get assignment that is spiralling down and waiting to go bust. When this happens, i don’t wait or go by the books. I push things and step on some people toes along the way (sorry). Some people like to see something to fail and you happen to be there. The goal is to make the leap, because playing catch up not going to make it.
5) Free up knowledge
This is my life tagline. I am not a fountain of knowledge (too strong a word to describe me) but i know i have something extra. A lot of knowledge is either too deep in someone’s brain or the organization’s bureaucracy, it is wasteful and a sin to let this continue. Knowledge gives power and we can make a difference in the market place.
6) Think big, start small
You probably noticed my blog’s tagline carries this. I love to dream about something big, and i also have learned the hardship to do something big. Thus, i believe starting small would allow room for improvement and creativity. During the small stage, i usually spend a lot of time experimenting and testing hypotheses. The moment it’s ready, scaling up would just about adding resources. This belief also lead me to introduce significant innovation in products and processes throughout my career.
7) Be situationally pragmatic
Dealing with many people from different levels and in many situations demand great communication skills. While some leaders suavely good at this, i tend to stumble. I used to get carried away when i had conflicts with co-workers and colleagues. Surprisingly, i had very few problems with my leaders/bosses. The rule of thumb is to relentless be honest and pragmatic. As the equilibrium point moves, so does your pragmatism.
8) Stay hungry, stay foolish
I borrow this from Steve Jobs. I even wrote something about it in this blog, read here. I suggest you read from that post. Another learning from this belief is to run my own race. Sometimes when things don’t go my way, i get entagled with perception trap about how the grass is greener on the other side ( it’s always had right!). So, when that happen i have to realize quickly that my time will come and i just have to be patience with my mind and hands open.