Corporate Innovation Pain Points

*First appeard on LinkedIn in April 2019

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

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

Here are the Five Pain Points:

1.Departmental / Divisional Fiefdom

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

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

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

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

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

3. Only Pedigree Can Give Ideas

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

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

4. Customer Voices Not Heard

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

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

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

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

5. Tools Before Strategy

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

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

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

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

Top 10 Great Ideas in 2018 from the Field-Walk

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

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

Now let me share 10 Great Ideas in 2018:

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

 

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

Happy New Year 2019!

ca4f1c85-d93f-41d9-90e7-fd7759588457

The One Word That Make People Hate Innovation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Better your best!

Wait for my follow up article on this topic soon!

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

Top Five Great Ideas in 2017 From “The Field”

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

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

 

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

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

*Source: iMoney

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

product-discoverability4

Source: Centric Digital

 

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Slideplayer

5. “Dress down” day to Productivity

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

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

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

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

dress-down-day-or-no

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

Brickbats? Email me at donkhairul@gmail.com 

What Are Personas?

“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:

  1. Personas of Users for An Online Video Tool

personas

  1. Personas of Digital Shoppers

Online Personas Infographics 4g

  1. Personas of Facebook Users

Facebook-users-Final2

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.

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

Design Thinking Workshop & Coaching

 

 

Beyond Quanti, Factor In Quali

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.

Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 11.21.34 AM

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!

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

 

10 Symptoms of “DTO”

Heard this phrase before? “Practice make permanent?”. My team and I been working and practicing DT back to back with some clients, so much so we forget how much “DT” is embedded to our brain – almost permanently. We think we are experiencing symptoms of DTO. Are you? Here the 10 symptoms of DTO – design thinking overdrive:

img_2669

  1. When you see someone carrying brown carton boxes, you think it is a prototype.
  2. You run to a group of people in a mall holding paper folders because you thought they are looking for Testers.
  3. You seriously believe that crazy & wild ideas are ideas worth exploring…
  4. You have Sharpie pens inside your jeans, leather bag, laptop bag, handbag, satchel, wristlet and stucked on your t-shirt!

  5. Joking around is considered brainstorming to you (except everyone else!)
  6. You doodle more and speak less, to deepen the “conversation”.
  7. Every question starts with How Might…..
  8. Sitting down makes you feel strapped to the chair, you stand up to listen.
  9. Everything you can get your hands on can be a prototype – instantaneously!
  10. You sleep on your ideas and think about it meditatively! The next day, viola!

  11. It seems no one can stop you from doing something about any problem. Who’s stopping you anyway?

img_2695

It turns out there are 11 symptoms of DTO! It’s really driving us “mutts”!

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

or visit us at www.designthinking.com.my 

Wrap Up Year 2015, Welcome 2016!

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. ūüôā

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!

miss_universe_card_zoom
Was this card designed to fail?

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.

Humanized-design. Take a closer look!
Humanized-design. Take a closer look!

 

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! ūüėČ Well done TGV!

The Caramel and Cool Mint, which one do you like?
The Caramel and Cool Mint, which one do you like?

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:

 

  1. How might we retain our top talent in cross countries and global projects that rely in virtual teams set up?
  2. How might we create a safe environment for senior operational leaders help the top talents grow exponentially in their career?
  3. How might we rapidly develop new products and services that customers love in our verticals?
  4. 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!

Happy New Year 2016! May the year brings us abundance, happiness and love.
Happy New Year 2016! May the year brings us abundance, happiness and love.

Does the Success of Social Entrepreneurs Matter?

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.

socialentrepreneur

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.

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.

Successful-business-man-standing

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.

Buildings

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.

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com 

Five Things I Learned About Top Talent Leadership Development

My recent work with top talent was very interesting. They are mid level managers from several organizations. Some were grouped together and another dispersed in their own role while going through the program with me.

These are top talent. They earned their spot through the their experiences on the job while scaffolding their growth. They are very talented and some are opinionated. All of them went through several screening processes before being short-listed into this program.

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The insights I got here worth sharing. Here there are:

1. True Leaders Show Up

Apparently there are a lot of us want to be a leader. We like the attention given to a leader. Some crave for it from distance.

However, not many willing to show up and hustle their way to become one. Most expect someone somewhere “recognize” them as “leader material”, in other words, they are offered to be a “leader”. Please don’t be mistaken, being a leader doesn’t equate of a promotion at work. Yes, for a promotion you need someone to offer you however, there are many leaders become one without a title – said by Robin Sharma. In other words, anyone can be a leader.

This person I call Jim is very interesting. When engaging him in a group he was very quiet and a follower type. He sometimes talk about his idea but yeah all he did was talking. However in our private coaching session, he projected himself as “leader-material-that-yet-to-be-found” by someone in his organization. He reminisced about his past when his colleagues and bosses often talked about his achievements at work. He usually observed others from afar. However when asked why did he not act like one in the group, he said he had his moments so he feels others should have their moments now. That’s the reason why he “stepped aside”. Jim was making excuses. This kind of strategy may backfire if you want to be seen as a leader. True leader shows up.

2. Leader Knows and Expresses Quality

“You know it when you see it”.

This is how sometimes we used to describe quality in a person or a thing. As an adult most of us have seen lots of things. We have experienced several setbacks and winning some¬†battles at the same time. We met so many people with varying characters and qualities.¬†Some we like, some we don’t.¬†In summation, we roughly know in general whether a person is with substance or whether another person is just a BS. The only thing we don’t do sometimes is to show it.

This person call Randy was given a task to evaluate his colleagues assignments. Randy has been in the organization for 15 years and he’d seen a lot. Some of them are his new colleagues and from the rumours these new people are the bosses allies. So Randy gave full marks without considering the quality of the assignments. In the private coaching he was asked why he did that. At first Randy was shocked because he didn’t realized he was observed. He thought people are not watching. Later he confessed he did that because he wanted to please the “future bosses”. Randy substandard mindset actually is a self-sabotage. He is scared to evaluate other people. He wanted to please people that he doesn’t know enough, although he has wide experience in his work and in the company. Leader should express quality.

3. Proper Selfishness Is Okay

The word of Charles Handy, proper selfishness theory means

“That in order to truly be ourselves, we need to serve others.”

A leader must go beyond his own domain and reach out to others. He usually acts even without being asked although it may cost him economically (within his means) and sometimes to the detriment of his personal life (especially his family members would say how come you always do things for others?)

This great man I call Harris is such a guy. In an open team setting, I could see him attempting to show up and offer his wealth of experiences. Although some time he successfully did it, most of the time he ended up hesitant and follow the crowd. There were cases when his team lost in games we play, although they had great chance had Harris jumped in and steer it right.

In the private coaching, he explained that he is worried that people might think of him as trying to show off and to gain merit points. Although he admitted no one has spoken to him directly in that way, he “felt” he knew it from the look “in their eyes”. This is true to most of us where we sometimes overly thinking of what others have to say. Proper selfishness is okay.

4. Some Top Talent Not Leader Material

You see most leaders in many organization these days grow up from top talent pipelines. Typically they excel in their formative education till tertiary. Some come from Ivy League universities or top scorers. Later they are groomed in a well designed top talent development program before being promoted into rotational roles paving path to leadership position. The thing is, we know the big challenge with top talent is the way they carry themselves with people. Often, this top breed find difficulties working with others. In some cases, they loathed having others around them. In the word of Marshall Goldsmith,

by the time we reach teen years our minds are already shaped of how we see the world.

Throughout our youth it get reinforced and become our identity. By the time we reach the workforce we already a “complete” person carrying our own “tainted lenses” around.

This lady call Carly is such a person. She is a product of top local university. She did very well in her academic years. According to her, she was supposed to go to USA for her tertiary education, however due to financial crisis, she only managed to complete year one before called back. She completed the remaining years here in Malaysia. In private coaching with her, you can tell that she is very proud of her achievements as a student and a career woman. After about 30 minutes into our conversation, she looked at me and said actually she hardly had any conversation like this with her colleagues or direct reports. She said she find these people are “not able to match her calibre and intellectual capacity”. She also mentioned that lately her bosses have been favoring other candidate for regional role although she hit her numbers well. There’s a saying, as you grow further in organization or in life, the only significant thing that matter is how you treat other people.

5. Leader Roles Sleeves, Ideas Are Cheap!

I hammered this many times in my program, ideas are cheap! Ideas are cheap! You can’t make money with just ideas, no matter how brilliant it is. Ask any innovators and inventors, they stumbled many times on their initial ideas. Moreover, often the things they commercialized later on is very likely something they never thought before. As a leader, we need to know that we need to milk ideas and then put the ideas to test. Some leaders, because of their position or role, throwing ideas from left right centre. Ideas after ideas and expect others to pick it up. Worst, they have this idea that their direct report should be of the¬†“same wavelength” with them and should know how to fly the idea.

This person call Peter is a direct report to a director. Peter’s boss, is such a person. The boss will come in the office and throw in ideas. Call Peter to his room and try to win Peter with his idea and expect it fly the next day. When Peter failed to do so, his boss get very angry. He said that Peter is unable to think outside the box – even after various training sent.

In a design thinking ideation, we brought his boss to participate and we could see him in action.

However, through our design thinking guidance where we get them to try out some creative tools and active collaboration techniques, we could see that Peter and his boss could work on really well – they become great sparring partner. They work on simple prototype and test it around. It is a real hard work for any idea to win the marketplace. We leaders, lets role our sleeves.

I hope these sharing has been insightful and helpful.

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com 

Design Thinking (DT) As Strategic Tool – Personal Experience

“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. ūüôā

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.

Five Steps of DT Problem Solving tool
Five Steps of DT Problem Solving tool

EMPATHISE

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. ūüėõ¬† 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.

DEFINE

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.

IDEATE

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.

PROTOTYPE

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.

TEST

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.

During a presentation with my team @genovasi
During a presentation with my team @genovasi

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!

"DT house" @Malaysia
“DT house” @Malaysia

“Master It, Muster It”

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

Design Thinking – DT Personal Journey

There was a quote by Steve Jobs saying, “Design is how it works.” I think he was right. Recently i met an engineering student with strong right brain, he echoed that quote. He’s an undergraduate in Mechanical Engineering. He said a lot of people equate design with advertisement, art or schematic drawing. It’s wrong he said. I agreed with him; completely.

It was just weeks ago i graduated from a Design Thinking program organized by genovasi in collaboration with Hasso Platner Institute (HPI). The program was a 10-weeks hands on and pants down (i mean i have to do a lot of running around!). The entire program was done in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.

The training room set up was brilliant and well thought. Everything were on rollers and wheels (except us). There were fun activities, higher order thinking games and best of all like minded folks; they came from various background but still when it comes to getting this done we only had one source; the Design Thinking (DT) 5 steps and 12 commandments. We literally guided by how to use and apply them in various settings and actual projects.

 

"DT house" @Malaysia
“DT house” @Malaysia

As i travel my DT journey i am beginning to see the world and its problems in new dimension. I got acquainted with design magazine such as Wallpaper and Fast Company (Design issue was released in October 2013). I ventured with enthusiasm what DT capable of doing and now am a DT convert.

There is only one immediate problem i see now; it is a new field that people are still struggling to adopt en-masse. Even when i spoke to my consultant friends, ehemmm! DT is perceived as playful as Mickey Mouse in pin stripped jacket.

Besides, even i personally have to constantly reminding myself on DT whenever i approach new “design challenges”. I sound dogmatic of trying to repackage old rules in new nicely ribboned matte box. Heck, as a convert i should be right? ūüėČ

Look around you will find design plays significant role of a successful products or services. You can see this especially in IT application because technology enablement is a big part of user experience. DT place “human” as central to its approach. Why technology? This is because of our borderless and cross border economic aspiration. For eg. App-based application is used by global citizen and to appeal such a huge majority is a daunting task. But once your app is widely accepted (many examples of this) you are sure to turn them into money machine. This is impossible to do 15-20years ago because of heavy reliant on domestic market. But now with technology, this is not far a distance.

 

Pushed to a corner with a design challenge
Pushed to a corner with a design challenge

While we’ve seen rapid expansion of technology companies, we also observed tech giants that too big too fail; failed. They were unable to cope with this massive power given to global users in the name of UX (user experience). This lies DT approach that see the intersection of User Needs, Technology and Business as Innovation opportunity.

In summary, as a DT convert i only have this to say, “nobody can stop an idea that time has come.” DT is making wave and it is for good cause and for humanity. I know i am in.

Well, thats all for now. I surely get back with more insights as i travel my DT journey.

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com