Connecting not Cocooning

Technology is a tool that should empower us to reach more people and bind us together, connecting communities, workplaces and ideas. Although technology helps create great individual experiences, social interaction is a basic need and fundamental part of humanity, and we must encourage against people locking themselves away in their rooms for hours on end, especially at meal times.

As part of this humanisation endeavour, here is an interesting story to share: a law firm research revealed that the senior management profile pages (usually found under About Us) of its website were the most visited. So the firm decided to turn up the spotlight, including the addition of video interviews with its lawyers which included answering unconventional questions!

The message was: you wont find corporate stuffed shirts here; we are real people who value relationships with other real people. I like that. Put technology to use as a platform to inject some personality into our companies and humanise what we do. It’s about people. It always is.

Naivety and inexperience are essential

I came across an enlightening interview with Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei where he was asked how young people affect his work.

Rather than turn his nose up or scoff at the question, he replied that the young generation is amazing. He said “they have less of the burden of history, but a clear sense of right and wrong.” He went on to say that they have more imagination than their parents and they are naive and full of inexperience – but it is this naivety and inexperience that are essential for creativity and being brave. Isn’t that refreshing?

By 2025, this generation will make up 75% of the workforce and the important thing is not just that they might bring new ideas and values, it’s that there are going to be so many of them. They will be the largest generation ever to enter the workforce – so how do we make our products, our services and our companies attractive enough so they choose us?

The best technology of all

At an industry event I attended recently, industry stalwart Amy Cardel shared her views on the changes and impact of technology on doing business, but one simple statement has stuck – that the best technology of all is face to face.

Despite the overload of information, the bombardment of news and the almost permanent connectivity, building relationships with other human beings, talking through issues and needs and resolving them together, remain the best partnerships of all. Somewhere in my early blogs I wrote about similar things that the Tupperware company emphasised back in 1953, and the principles remain today. Sitting across a table, reading and reacting to body language, smiling. It isn’t rocket science.

At the same event I had the pleasure of meeting and listening to NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal – he was inspirational, he was very funny and entertaining, but most of all he was a normal guy with good values. It’s about people, it always is.

What we can learn from an ice cream cone

ice cream coneIn a previous job role, we didn’t have the funds to hire the most senior sales people, so I took the approach of hiring graduates with the attitude and drive to succeed, targeting a variety of new market segments for growth. Not everybody worked out, but several members of the team are Directors there or elsewhere, of which I am very proud. I had the opportunity to meet up with one of the team recently, and he reminded me of a story I used to share which is worth retelling.

At the 1904 World Fair in St Louis, the gentleman selling ice cream ran out of paper cups. He talked to the person next to him selling waffles, who then proceeded to flatten and roll them diagonally to form cones, thus creating the ice cream cone I grew up with in the 1970s (in the UK it was known as the ‘99’ and you could add a small chocolate flake as an extra treat – oh the memories).

The lesson in this? Look away from the obvious and consider the ingredients or components, partnerships or alliances outside of the norm, to create the new future.

We are in a new era of collaboration and partnerships facilitated with or without technology – who or what can we learn from, that sits outside our traditional sector and every day activities?

Can you smell the roses?

Day in the life of corporate vs startupHow many of us can remember the New Year or what we did in December?

We are well into 2019 and have launched straight into the roller-coaster of another year. Whether we are employed by a large organisation or self-employed, it seems everybody complains of the same thing; taxi drivers share anecdotes of people rushing in and out of their cabs with no time to eat or think, but nobody appears to be doing much about it.

This has to be the year to slow ourselves down and build some time into the schedule to think; not to stop or do less necessarily, but to focus on what delivers most impact and brings in the results to achieve more.

I had a few decent ideas in 2018, how to help one of my clients, how to better position a team of people for their future, how to add value at home, but these ideas came on train and plane journeys. Journeys with quiet time where I couldn’t be interrupted.

There is no irony that my post on social spaces which received the most feedback was one where technology should be put down for a moment to savour what life has to offer. Can we learn from this: should we introduce ‘make a connection Monday,’ ‘talk to a human Tuesday’ or ‘work on a solution Wednesday?’

Whatever it is, and with spring in sight, we need to slow down to create time to ponder, to think a little more long-term and to stop and smell the roses.

Are things really changing?

Somebody prompted me to write this, by asking earlier this week, “Are things really changing?” I think they wanted me to say “well, not really” so they could go back to doing the same thing in the same old way, probably because it would be easier to do so.

We don’t have the space here to quote all the areas of change, but one of the most impactful will be the demographic shift. Populations in the US and UK especially are aging: in the US 10,000 people turn 65 every day.

By 2035, the number of Americans that will be of retirement age will be larger than the number of people under 18 for the first time in US history. It is a setup that has never been experienced before, plus it will be interesting to watch 5 different generations all interacting in the workplace with their varying characteristics and demands.

Sprinkle over the top some of the unchartered trends and behaviours and we have a melting pot of transformation; an experienced 55-year old protects their information and doesn’t share too much, whereas an 18-year old is upset if the public doesn’t read and respond to their weekend exploits. This change in living very public lives will be an area of contention and yet this is just one behaviour that is cascading down to organisations and forcing them to rethink.

No one quite understands millennials but they are hugely important to the future – they will have different views, ideas and work styles for sure, but more importantly they will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025. There will simply be so many of them and they are going to be the largest generation ever to enter the workforce. We need to attract them on their terms, or they will choose not to work for us.

Remember the (recruitment) ‘milk round?’ Back in the ‘80s we used to attend job fairs wearing horrid ties pleading for companies to give us a chance. Today, organisations must shift from creating an environment where they assume that people need to work there to one where people want to spend their time.

We are mobile, geographic boundaries do not exist, attitudes are disruptive and the work day is being redefined. I feel sorry for companies that refuse to change. I feel more sorry for manufacturers of mens ties!

What if I live to 100?

UBS adThe back page of the current Fortune magazine carried this advert (right) for UBS and it is worth underlining the impact of living for longer.

If we live to 100 in future, it is more than just savings plans and investments we will need to worry about. Very few will be able to retire and live off their savings for half a century, so how will we cope? We will most likely have a career that spans 60-years and have to learn new skills as generations change; furthermore cycles and trends of work mean where we start will in no way resemble how we finish working.

So as our knowledge and skills become redundant, we will have to update just to keep up. Education needs to start thinking today how to prepare future generations for such evolution – will a once in a lifetime education be the correct solution, surely not? The traditional college/university model was invented when our education would get you your first and last job, but our kids will hop from project to project as they see fit – choosing who they work for.

Because we live in a very dynamic society where people have lots of careers, where technology moves faster than we can keep up and whatever we learn expires very quickly, we need to ask if we are no longer faithful to one company or even one profession, why should we be faithful to one type of education at one institution, and at only one point in our lives?

Customer Experience

netflixWhen you consider the brands that genuinely stand out, they do so due to customer experience.

Why do people buy from Apple? For the product and design experience.

Why do people so many subscribe to Netflix? The experience of watching quality TV anytime, anywhere.

Why do people go to Selfridges? For the ‘yellow bag’ shopping experience.

How can technology help enhance the experience for your customers?

Speed up or slow down?

Dubai workshopI spent a great week in the Middle East last week where we hosted a skills workshop for clients and guests – with the topics productivity, talent and technology high on the agenda.

As always, following the media and talking to locals I picked up some interesting stories, no least from an article describing the ability to “zip through the airport in 10 seconds” on its way to the region. This is great news, especially as most people have a story to tell about crowds, delays and hours standing at baggage carousels scrolling through emails on their phone waiting for their bag. But is it really that good for us?

I welcome technology making our lives easier, speeding up processes and helping avoid queues, everything faster and shorter, but does it genuinely save us time or encourage us to try and fit more in. We seem to have fallen into the habit of squeezing more into less time, allowing ourselves no time to think and more items to have to juggle and worry about.

Should we be cramming more activities into less time, or should we be doing less in order to think it through and do a better job of the task?

Does technology ultimately buy us more time, or just more pressure?

The answer is in the room

Most people think that to generate and brainstorm the next big idea has to involve far-reaching experts nobody has ever met, when in fact, regardless of age or generation, the answer to our needs is normally in the room – all we have to do is find the most effective way to facilitate the discussion and identify it.

Plus you don’t need a focus group; the world talking and debating online every day, customers talking about your company and product and service, is the biggest focus group you will ever need.