1.   Design is everything. Design solutions that matter.

2.   With digital platforms, we sell value exchanges.

3.   Young people are more likely to open bank accounts through their social media platforms (this is about trust).

4.   The biggest issue for banking is business model disruption. Payments are being commoditized. The industry will be defined by a race to the bottom.

5.   Banking will become what you do and not where you go.

6.   FinTechs trigger the immune systems of organisations. The antibodies come out and kill them. There is an over-focus on P&L at the expense of future-proofing the business.

7.   It is the human condition to learn through play. Drive serious business outcomes through creating engaging and immersive experiences. Adopt new approaches.

8.   The creative and business difference is empathy. Develop it. Start with people, spend time with them, imagine how to enrich their lives. Then design better solutions for them.

9.   Let go of the ideas you are attached to. Get feedback. Reinvent relentlessly.

10. Work in diverse teams.

11. Transcend the metrics.

Did you attend #leaderex2018? What stood out for you?

Clever fusion

South Africa’s expanded unemployment rate has risen from 6m in 2001 to 9.6m in 2018. With these significant unemployment figures looming large, it can be challenging to keep a positive outlook. Until you pay a visit to Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator.

Harambee means ‘we win when we pull together’. If you don’t know them, Harambee is an ambitiously successful and spirited youth employment accelerator, designed in 2009-10 to tackle youth unemployment through partnerships and scale. Harambee was incubated in 2011 by Yellowwoods with a group of 5 funding employers and just 40 young people. They certainly have come a long way. To date they have placed over 55 thousand young people into paid employment and their plans are to shift this number to 100 thousand by the end of the decade.

We know that if a young person gets and keeps their first job, they are much more likely to remain employed for the rest of their life. But employers shy away from recruiting young and entry-level employees, not least because of the gaps presenting between the education system and the skills required in the world of work. Redressing educational and psychosocial issues caused by poverty can also increase costs for employers, and up perceived risks, creating a barrier for young people hoping to enter the workplace.

Harambee tackles these issues head-on by assisting with formal placement (demand-led) and through empowering young people with personal and skills development. And they have a unique approach. Unlike employers who typically use school grades as a basis for entry-level screening, Harambee assesses learning potential and measures what is described as ‘fluid intelligence’ – the ability to learn quickly in a new environment. This helps with understanding the person’s likelihood of performing in an opportunity. “78% of young people would have been excluded for entry-level positions based on their math scores, yet the learning potential assessment indicates that around 90% would be suitable for most entry-level jobs” says Nicola Galombik, co-founder of Harambee.

Although not every candidate can be placed, joining Harambee offers development opportunities and connection into a network where future placement is a possibility – jobs seekers emerge more prepared to meet the demands of entry-level roles. The dedicated mobi site is absolutely free for young work seekers who are unemployed and have been looking for a job. Offices are located in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban and Cape Town however Harambee services any part of the country where there is demand. Employers benefit from access to pools of talent previously undiscovered or inaccessible. It seems a win-win on all sides. So what underpins this success?

Harambee take pride in their relatively flat structure. And there is no doubt that there is a special energy about the place. But what really impresses is their adoption of tech to make a big and purposeful impact. Harambee has used machine learning and big data solutions to tackle the challenge of youth unemployment in South Africa, earning them a keynote spot (one of two organisations only) at the Google NEXT 2018 conference in Silicon Valley. They are developing an alternative pathwaying platform using a pretty smart, world-leading algorithm described as having the rules to include and not exclude. It takes account of the zigzagging young people are used to and reflects the kind of disruption characteristic of the gig economy. The platform analyses skills and suggests routes to employment (rather than just matches to jobs), and this could include short-term contract work. Harambee can access their data and understand both employers and candidates better. ‘Data we are gathering allows us to shine a light on all the great things (young people) can be and are’. Accolades are aplenty and include The CX Game Changer Award from Genesys for customer experience innovation, providing global recognition for their contact centre, and a nomination for the 2018 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship.

It is this fusion of clever, cutting-edge tech and deep human respect that comes home on a visit to the Fox Street offices. Sam Varney, Manager of Solution Analytics, showed me around, explaining the what, where and how of what they do. As a man with a large empty container passed us, Sam explained that young people are offered a sandwich and a piece of fruit before training. Full stomachs help people learn. There is also a room full of clothing supplies to assist candidates to get kitted up ‘right’ for interviews and the first few weeks of work. Simple, human things make a big difference indeed.

As Sam walked me to the lift at the end of my visit, she told me how lucky she feels to be part of Harambee, to be able to go to work there each day. And I left feeling like the good stuff can and does happen, driven by ambitious people connected to a larger purpose, and enabled in ways like never before thanks to technological advancement.

Take a look at the Harambee website and consider ways to get involved, as an individual or an employer. You can also direct young people who are unemployed to the mobi site. Who knows, perhaps this could be the seed of tackling tomorrow’s important stuff.

Harambee is an independent, not-for-profit social enterprise that works with individual businesses, government agencies, local and international donors, industry sector associations, youth-serving organisations, assessment specialists, behaviour change experts and technology providers. I visited them to see what they were doing, and this write-up was published by Talent Talks Africa where I am a regular columnist. You can view the first publish here.

Find Your Digital WeirdThere is much opportunity to show up these days. Social networking platforms are like stages for shining and showing off your personal and professional experiences, quirks and skills. We can connect, debate and create, at scale. It’s true. Technological advancement brings access like never before. New tech helps us to get heard, find opportunities and get things done, not to mention magnify individual good, says futurist Graeme Codrington.

Unsurprisingly, this level of access also applies to personal information about ‘us’. According to digital thought leader Mike Saunders, two years ago the World Economic Forum (WEF) had already named data the new currency. If you are not paying for a product, such as an online social networking platform (most of us are on one at least), then you should understand that you are the product.

So whilst we throw up concerns around privacy, and indeed we are right to question, perhaps we should focus our questions beyond whether we have privacy or not, to whether we are happy with the trades we are making in exchange for our personal information. Good questions to ask are, what information does this platform hold about me, and what are they doing with it? What value does it add for me?

Take Alexa. Alexa is a cloud-based virtual personal assistant that is continually updating its intelligence, something like Apple’s Siri. You ask or command and Alexa responds. You may be searching for information, such as news, weather, traffic or for a new recipe, or asking Alexa to play your ‘tunes’ or the radio. But you can also use Alexa to get things done. You can ask it to create to-do lists, shop, order an Uber and control smart home products (think temperature, alarms). “Keep up with your busy lifestyle and maximise the potential of the smart devices that you own with increased convenience” says this website, with its blog helping you to compare Google Home and Amazon Echo, so that you can make an informed decision on design, features and capabilities. Alexa is a paid service, and it is learning all the time, based on what you feed it, and you benefit. There is your trade.

On LinkedIn, the free version, you get to profile yourself professionally and to tap into the opportunities presented through a global living network. You are the product – just like you are on Facebook and Instagram, if you are not paying for the service. As inspirational speaker and strategy facilitator Siphiwe Moyo reminds us, it is not just millennials, everyone has options and choice and we should be exercising that choice. Exercising choice means becoming aware of what your options are, and understanding them well, so that you can make informed choices or trades, and really take advantage of what a digital age offers.

Dorie Clark, Harvard Business Review contributor shows us how we can do this in her work Standout. She grew up in a very small town in North Carolina – pre-Internet era – and felt incredibly frustrated with the lack of opportunities. She argues that too many of us still believe that heads down and hard work hard equals recognition and career success. Clark teaches us how to develop big ideas, leverage affiliations and build a community of followers. The process of finding great ideas and getting them heard makes it possible for us to change the world for the better (previously quite difficult, when we were non-digital). But is also the best form of career insurance. You capitalize on your unique perspective and knowledge and inspire others to listen and take action. Recognize your own value, cultivate your expertise, and put yourself out there, she says. It is no surprise that her examples Seth Godin, who in his book, “We are all weird” notes:

 

“The choice to push all of us toward a universal normal merely to help sell more junk to the masses is both ineffectual and wrong. The opportunity of our time is to support the weird, to sell to the weird, and, if you wish, to become the weird.”

 

In the workplace of tomorrow, robots will perform repetitive, monotonous tasks. They can do them better and faster than we can. That means our human energy is freed up to focus on what we are evolved to do. New tech can actually unlock human potential. Is it unlocking yours? And where are you showcasing that?

#FindYourDigitalWeird 

The article was written for and first published on TalentTalks.

#creativity#innovation#purpose

  • We can be prosumers or makers – we do not have to be just consumers of what others make. In this way we can shape our own worlds.
  • Creativity starts with the individual, and growth mindsets are key enablers for the future. We must provoke, unwrap and explore the way we understand the world, and discover the individual contribution we make.

“We do not see the world the way it is, we see the world according to our instruments.” – Immanuel Kant.

  • Traditional employee engagement measures will not secure the game changing outputs needed for a Fourth Industrial Revolution future. Creativity will become a business essential. We need people in Flow at work, creating amazing things to make the shift from ‘compete’ to create, from Red to Blue Ocean.
  • Innovation is a team effort. The hero innovator is a myth. There are many diverse contributions to game changing outputs. Once we recognize, appreciate and truly enable these different inputs, we move closer to an innovation-as-usual. We also build resilience through positive, appreciative and strengths-based approaches in our workplaces.
  • Innovation can and should have purpose. Purpose brings focus and directs attention and action. It engages humans. It keeps them motivated and flexibly persistent. Making money on its own is not a purpose. That is a result. Each person should reflect on and poke awareness of their impact and purpose, within the larger scheme of what’s being done at work.

“The world has an infinite supply of interesting and profitable problems, it also has in infinite supply of significant problems. I would love for us to focus on the latter.” – Andrew Ng

  • Purpose can be massively transformative. Some organisations outstrip the performance of more traditional, slow-moving peers. These organisations go beyond competing to creating. Whilst leveragingexponential technologies can be key to success, exponential organisations have one thing in common, they acknowledge their “Massive Transformative Purpose”.
  • As leaders, our great responsibility and challenge is to champion, enable and example creative, purposeful work. Creative cultures are aligned through a golden thread of purpose, and led by inspirational role models.
  • Creativity and innovation can no longer be the preserve of the elite or of genius talent. But you need strong muscles to effect meaningful change. Flex your muscles and build them. Invest in them. Disrupt yourself and keep learning. The system around you will almost always seek the path of less change. Creativity is by its very nature disturbing. Creativity is risky. Take novel opportunities to champion originality within your system, improve how you recognize and speak up about new ideas, and get them to stick.

“Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead.

 

Tried of the same old workplace tools and methods for discovering more about yourself and the future direction of your business? We use tools such as Lego Serious Play and The Game Changer index to open the horizons on any business or personal challenge.

Contact us.

This blog is a collection of simple wisdoms from influencers I admire.

Dorie Clark

In a globalised society, your ideas can attain greater scale than ever before possible.

Make a commitment to something larger than yourself. A great idea is about more than just you.

The best ideas don’t stay tied to their creators forever, they go out into the world and make a difference because people make them their own.

Seth Godin

The choice to push all of us toward a universal normal merely to help sell more junk to the masses is both ineffectual and wrong. The opportunity of our time is to support the weird, to sell to the weird, and, if you wish, to become the weird.

Peter Drucker

Every organisation must prepare for the abandonment of everything it does.

Margaret Heffernan

Thinking is a rather prosaic, low-tech concept, often forgotten and easily underrated.

Immanuel Kant

Dare to think!

Virginia Satir

Get excited about who you are, what you are, what you have and what can still be for you. Tune into your own wisdom. Your responses to the events of life are more important than the events themselves.

Naval Ravikant

Live the life you have. Embrace the future. Set up systems rather than goals.

Be radically honest and truthful.

Believe in compound interest – everything runs on compound interest, from business to personal relationships.

 Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times. The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.

Margaret Mead

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

More beautiful questions

Innovation is all about being that person who thinks about, asks and owns the answering of questions. The payoff to asking better questions is that we can tackle the unknown and find better solutions. Innovators move forward through questions. They ask – What if? Why?

As we grow from children into adults, we gradually learn that playing it safe has merits. Questions show weakness, ignorance and a potential lack of co-operation or willingness. Questions slow things down and introduce perceived inefficiencies. Most people respond over time by becoming more measured in the questions they ask. And some just stop questioning altogether. It is more comfortable and safe within the fold, keeping to the patterned efficiency that is mapped out for us, based on all we know already. But this approach comes at a huge cost. We lose our natural sense of wonder and exploration. And over time we become less prepared for the future unknowns, and not more, as we might believe.

Questions allow us to organise our thinking about what we do not know. Asking a good question can challenge a long-held wisdom, and put new perspective to the familiar. Questions help us to solve new and unfamiliar problems. Questions can change us, and the world around us.

If more beautiful questions have so much to offer us, particularly as we wake up to the imperative of ‘curiousity’ at work, why don’t we spend time thinking consciously about how we question, and aiming to improve the questions we ask? Encouraging questioning and developing skills in this art and science seem highly undervalued. What if we could harness the beautiful power of questions to move us into new dimensions?

Getting to more beautiful and purposeful questions – a few pointers

  • There is no right or wrong question, but a good question is rooted in an authentic curiosity. This is different to a criticism in disguise, or an ‘ask’ to prove a point.
  • Explore the question with the person who asks it. Turn the question around and out. Ask what everyone else thinks.
  • Encourage questions, and don’t think you always have to answer them. Encourage ownership of questions. Every innovator starts out with ownership of a question.
  • Create a culture of valuing questions. There needs to be a better understanding of the value of questions and what questions do, so that they are better received, and so that we get better at asking them.
  • Don’t let questions become career limiting moves. Don’t label questioners as obstructive and disagreeable. Instead, support people in the practice of their skill to ask more beautiful questions, the kinds of questions that move us forward.
  • There is something to be said for the total novice or rookie, who poses the question that may seem ‘stupid’ but that actually naturally challenges accepted wisdom. Why have we always done it this way? Who comes to something with innocent eyes, and what questions do they have?
  • Encourage shared ownership of questions. This is sometimes referred to as collaborative enquiry, where everyone plays a part in answering the question. You can use techniques like Lego Serious Play to model the answering of questions, and to generate more questions to be asked.
  • Be conscious of what you think you already know. Our own depth of knowledge can conspire against questioning. A sense of knowing can mean we stop asking where it might matter most.
  • Practice your questioning and develop it like a skill. Questioning is one of the 5 skills of the Innovators DNA that can be learned and practiced.

Have a go at asking and answering these questions yourself, right now:

What is the big question in your organisation / your work … how might we / I? Can you turn your mission statement into a mission question? What if companies replaced their mission statement with a mission question, and then shared ownership for answering that question with the whole company? What impact would that have?

This post draws a lot on The Knowledge Project, Farnam Street Blog, by Shane Parrish, this episode: “Improve Your Life by Improving Your Questions”. The podcast is an interview with Warren Berger — journalist, speaker, author and self-proclaimed questionologist. Explore this topic in more depth by listening to the full podcast or read the book, A More Beautiful Question. It shows how the world’s leading innovators, education leaders, creative thinkers and start-ups ask game-changing questions to nurture creativity, solve problems and create new possibilities.

Unleashing the big c

I recently took part in a Connectle on Innovation Mindsets. The panel of speakers was impressive and inspiring. Take Ira Munn from Ierospace. Ira is changing the world, one Drop at a time. Later this year he will launch The Drop, a 3D-printed, energy-efficient, electric vehicle kit made from up-cycled local plastic, like the plastic clogging up our oceans. Making the body of each Drop with recycled PET plastic and a hardener additive reduces the amount of energy consumption and the amount of carbon burn in the manufacturing process. The Drop can be charged at charging stations and standard household outlets. Due to the weight of the vehicle and new technology, it has incredible range. We have the ability to go from vision to vehicle in months not years thanks to 3D printing, says Ira. This is big C – breakthrough creativity.

Adaptation that is creative, rather than reactive, leads us to a better place in the future. Mostly, in our organsiations, we are doing the little c – the incremental builds and innovations, the adjacencies. So how do we get to big C?

People who change the ways things get done start somewhere. They build their skills like a muscle. And we have tools at our disposal to do this. I use one such tool, Lego Serious Play, to open minds and unleash creativity with groups. We get participants to play with Lego, and to model their ideas. First we chat through creativity, and what makes a creative organization. And that often prompts a comment about how hard it can be to push breakthrough ideas through large, legacy organisations and systems. So this post shares thoughts on unleashing the big C.

Anyone can learn to be an original

Creativity is an expression of our uniqueness. To be creative is to be vulnerable. Creativity is also, by its very nature, disturbing. So first, acknowledging these feelings in yourself, and in those around you, is a good start. Added to that, stop thinking that the most successful entrepreneurs (inside and outside of organisations) are creative geniuses who stumbled across that ‘one big idea’. Adam Grant presents the research on this – most of these successful people are relatively ordinary people with original ideas, and perhaps surprisingly, they are taking very calculated risks. He calls them Originals, and whether at home or at work, he believes that all of us can learn to be Originals. Anyone can learn to recognise a good idea, to speak up without getting silenced, and to get new ideas to stick. Think about building a muscle. Managerial bias (evaluating the outliers OUT), confirmation bias (looking for evidence to prove you are right), and too much deep knowledge in one area can do you a disservice. Some breadth and some depth of knowledge is most helpful, says Grant. Think too about kissing a lot of frogs – and by that we mean coming up with sheer numbers of ideas, because one will stick at the right time in the right place. Take feedback from creative peers, not necessarily your evaluative management team as a first point of call. You could also do well to look out for those people who have passion for ideas as well as the execution of them.

Do new things – the seven dimensions of creativity

Doing new things, like playing an instrument or traveling to a new place, is good for your creativity. Spend time with people who are different to you. This stretches awareness, of self and of the world. It also induces a certain humility into your worldview, because over time you become aware of what you do not know. Or put another way, you become aware of just how much there is to know. Awareness is one of the seven dimensions of creativity according to Nick Heap. The others are listed here:

  • Play, which produces new insight and action, and demands the ability to suspend judgement and allow new ideas and experiences to connect and form. It is one of the reasons I love to work with Lego.
  • Flexible Persistence, because anything new challenges what is established, and you need to be flexible and persistent to ensure your ideas do not fail prematurely. You need to take others with you, influencing them and understanding ‘what’s in it for them’, so that you can harness organizational energy in pursuit of success.
  • Purpose. People show up for things that are bigger than just themselves. What’s the purpose behind what you are doing? Is it communicated and understood?
  • Attention. New ideas need positive attention, attention nourishes creativity. Yet new ideas in their essence may not fit, they disturb, and so often we do not give them attention. Think about how you might reward for innovative ‘tries’ in your context.
  • Inspiration. What is inspirational in your context? How do you inspire as a leader?
  • Power – a strange dimension, one might think. Heap defines this as the ability to make good things happen. It is about taking charge of our own destiny and creating new realities, rather than playing what John Sanei calls the victim, waiting on what other people decide.

“No organisation can be creative unless it has lots of powerful people who can be models for others. You can learn to be more powerful.” – Nick Heap

Co-consulting to feed creativity, and other final tips

Encourage employees to support each other, using a co-consulting approach. This gives attention to each other and to new ideas, which feeds the creative process. Co-consulting is where one person talks about and explores an issue while the other listens, encourages, asks questions and challenges assumptions. Relax the rules so that people can play a little, just make the outcomes clear. Commit to building your influencing skills, so you are the change maker not the victim of a system that paralyses you. Try to think broadly and openly, and embellish your ability to do this by doing new things with new people. Lastly, search for the truth, in the context of your true north.

“We have the ability to come together, where creators can become consumers. We can do things differently, one drop at a time.” – Ira Munn