The Best Ideas Might Be Outside Your Industry

 21st November 2017 by gihan

Even if you believe it makes sense to tap into your team and customers for innovative ideas, you might not be convinced to look further afield. After all, your team members work actively in the business every day, and customers already know a lot about your products and services. But you might think outsiders couldn’t possibly know anything useful that would help with your business innovation.

But nothing could be further from the truth. Not only is this belief not true, it might be the exact opposite of the truth. Sometimes the best ideas come from outside your industry!

A team of Harvard researchers demonstrated this in a study of carpenters and their work practices (Look up the article “Sometimes the Best Ideas Come from Outside Your Industry”, published in the Harvard Business Review). Carpenters should protect their health and safety by wearing face masks while working, but many didn’t – because it was inconvenient, uncomfortable, or they just forgot. So the researchers recruited people from three different fields to suggest ideas to encourage carpenters to comply:

  • Carpenters themselves – who might have ideas for their colleagues
  • Roofing contractors – who work in a related field, so can draw on that experience
  • Inline skaters (rollerbladers) – a separate field with no real relationship to carpentry

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that the roofing contractors did indeed have some novel and practical ideas for the carpenters. But you might be surprised to hear the most novel solutions came from the rollerbladers! Unconstrained by their assumptions about the other field, they suggested novel – and practical – ideas that made a difference.

And it wasn’t that rollerbladers as a group are any more creative than the others in the study. The researchers discovered the same effect in reverse – that is, carpenters had better ideas for rollerblading safety than the rollerbladers themselves.
As the researchers said:

“When you’re working on a problem and you pool insights from analogous areas, you’re likely to get significantly greater novelty in the proposed solutions, for two reasons: People versed in analogous fields can draw on different pools of knowledge, and they’re not mentally constrained by existing, “known” solutions to the problem in the target field. The greater the distance between the problem and the analogous field, the greater the novelty of the solutions.”

With so much innovation happening in so many different fields, you have a rich and almost unlimited source of new ideas available to you. The best, most profitable, ideas for your business might already be in place – somewhere completely outside your field.

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Stop Thinking Jobs or Careers – Start Thinking Skills

 14th November 2017 by gihan

There was a time when young people entering the workforce expected to work in the same career for their life. But that changed, and now many people have multiple careers. In the future, this will become even more fragmented, with a focus on skills, not jobs or careers.

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Muscle Into the Top 4%

 7th November 2017 by gihan

We hear a lot of talk about disruption, but not much about what you can do about it.

Yes, it’s true that many businesses and industries will be “disrupted”, but it’s not necessarily bad news for everybody. In fact, for the most agile, nimble and innovative businesses in an industry, disruption will be a positive force.

You might have heard the statistic that only 20% of new businesses survive the first five years, and only 20% of them survive the next five. That means only 4% of businesses survive a decade.

The same applies now, but in a much smaller time frame. Now it doesn’t take 10 years to sort out the wheat from the chaff; it can happen in 18 months or less.

In other words, if you don’t rise to the top, you’re likely to fall to the bottom.

So how do you become one of the lucky few?

There’s an old saying, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

That’s true, but when it comes to being fit for the future in a fast-changing world, it’s better to follow this philosophy:

“The better I prepare, the luckier I get.”

There are many ways to prepare yourself, your team and your business for disruption. Let me share one with you here: the skill of transdisciplinarity.

In brief, transdisciplinarity means being a connector. It means you look around at what’s happening in the world – especially outside your industry – and figure out how it could possibly relate to you.

What could you use?
How could you leverage it?
Where can you incorporate it into your business?

For example, in a recent webinar, I gave participants the chance to try this out themselves. We looked at five technologies – self-driving cars, artificial intelligence, 3-D printing, drones, and nanotechnology (tiny robots) – and I asked people to think of ways those technologies could affect their business. They only had 2 minutes, but they were still able to create some interesting connections.

Here’s a snapshot of some of their responses (click the image to see it in full size):

What are YOU doing to build your transdisciplinarity?

Transdisciplinarity is a vital skill for being fit for the future – especially if you apply it regularly and proactively, not just randomly and reactively.

How can you make it part of your regular operations for your organisation, your people, and of course yourself?

Watch the webinar recording

You can watch the full recording of the webinar here:

The Future Proof Webinar Series

The Future Proof webinar series will keep you in touch with our future - what's ahead, what it means for us, and how to stay ahead of the game.

In each webinar, I'll cover an important topic about the future - for example, the shift of power to Asia, the changing workplace, healthcare technology, the shift to customer-centric business, big data, and more. This is not just theory; I'll also give you practical examples and ideas for you to future-proof your organisation, teams, and career.

Register here

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The Six Disruptive Forces That Will Turn Your Business Upside Down

 2nd November 2017 by gihan

Uber, Airbnb and Apple are often cited as businesses that disrupted entire industries. But they are not the most disruptive kind of force that can strike a business. They are not even the second-most disruptive. Discover the six disruptive forces so you know how to plan for them, adapt to them and maybe even thrive because you understand them.

You can watch the recording here:

After the webinar, I asked participants “What was the most useful thing you learned today?” Here are some of their answers:

“Putting my mind to exercise thinking about how those specific technologies will affect my businesses future, along with/after your great example of Driverless..”

“Reminder of the different types of disrupters”

“That you got us to ‘see’ snapshots of our future, and that people love that, which is why fortune tellers are so compelling. So I can become more interesting if I make people ‘present’ to their futures. (this is not something you taught directly, just a kind of meta-message)”

“Different types of competition in business”

“Thinking of what the future looks like”

The Future Proof Webinar Series

The Future Proof webinar series will keep you in touch with our future - what's ahead, what it means for us, and how to stay ahead of the game.

In each webinar, I'll cover an important topic about the future - for example, the shift of power to Asia, the changing workplace, healthcare technology, the shift to customer-centric business, big data, and more. This is not just theory; I'll also give you practical examples and ideas for you to future-proof your organisation, teams, and career.

Register here

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The #1 Daily Habit That Makes You More Productive

 31st October 2017 by gihan

There’s a story (possibly apocryphal) about Charles Schwab, the head of Bethlehem Steel in the 1930s, seeking help to become more effective. Management consultant I. V. Lee gave him a simple piece of advice, with a request that Schwab try it and then pay him whatever he thought it was worth. Schwab was so impressed with his results that he sent Lee a cheque for $25,000 – a fortune in those days (and not too shabby even now).

Lee’s advice to Schwab was simple: Start each day by making a list of his top priorities, then work on #1 until it was complete, then work on #2, and so on.

Even if the story isn’t true, the principle is powerful. American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault does something similar, each night listing his top three priorities for the next day.

Productivity expert Neen James suggests you spend 15 minutes on this at the start of each day, writing your top three priorities on a Post-It note, which you carry around with you during the day . Whenever something else arises, look at your list and compare that with your priorities. With a few exceptions, most things aren’t as important, and you can say No gracefully.

This means you might spend less time on social media, decline invitations to less important meetings, write shorter reports or eliminate them altogether, stop “dropping in” unannounced on colleagues or team members, and so on.

Even if you need to be diverted from your top three priorities, you still keep them at the back of your mind, so you’ll be more efficient when doing everything else. There’s no time for fiddling with fonts and margins when more important things are waiting!

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Don’t Ignore Technology That’s Outside Your Industry

 24th October 2017 by gihan

Many leaders are so busy caught up in their own business and industry that they never take the time to look up and out. That’s a real risk, because in our hyper-connected world, new technology and trends from completely outside your industry could disrupt your business.

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Shadowing: Your Surprise Secret Weapon for Leadership Success

 17th October 2017 by gihan

Help your team members step up by letting them “shadow” you in your job. This shows them how you spend your day, what you do, how you do it, what problems you face, and how you manage difficult situations. It also gives them the chance to ask relevant questions, which helps you understand and assess their current knowledge.

One of the biggest benefits of shadowing is that the learning is highly relevant. Your team member learns from real situations, they learn directly from you, they are exposed to complex situations in a safe way, and they only ask questions to fill a knowledge gap.

However, if you’re not careful, it’s easy for this learning environment to be too informal, where you both just go through the motions without any real learning. This usually doesn’t happen intentionally; it’s just the natural consequence of a busy working life.

To prevent this problem, add some structure to the shadowing process, to hold you both accountable to the learning process. One of the easiest and most effective tools for this is debriefing.

A debrief is simply a structured review of an event. Debriefing is common in some industries – for example, an airline flight crew debriefing after a flight or a hospital operating theatre team debriefing after a complex operation. Even if you’re not flying a commercial aircraft or conducting open heart surgery, you can still get the benefits of debriefing, which has been shown to improve both individual and team performance .

For example, if you take your team member to a management meeting, you debrief them afterwards by discussing the content (what was discussed at the meeting) and the process (how the meeting was run).

Debriefing a team member shadowing you can be even more effective than a team debrief, because it’s a positive and open discussion (without the potential to be negative or critical, as can sometimes happen with team debriefing).

In his book Work Rules!, Google’s Senior Vice President of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, describes how a former manager used exactly this process to accelerate Bock’s experience. He and his manager, Frank Wagner, drove out to client meetings together and Wagner debriefed the meeting immediately afterwards on the drive back to the office. The debriefing was simply asking Bock questions like “What did you learn?” and “What do you want to try differently next time?”

Let’s look at the debriefing process using a specific example of you inviting a team member to accompany you to a management meeting.


Although we focus on the debrief, which is about what happens after the meeting, you can also brief your team member beforehand. This isn’t essential, but it can help in certain situations – for example, to explain the dynamics of a group, to suggest they observe something particularly carefully, or to alert them that you’re planning to call on them during the meeting.

Make it efficient

Ask them to take notes about what they observe and any questions they would like to ask you later. Resist the temptation to ask them to take your notes for you, because this is for their benefit, not for them to act as your personal assistant.

When the meeting is complete, make time for debriefing – and do it as soon as possible, while it’s fresh in your minds. If you leave it too long, you will only remember the most prominent things, and might forget something subtle but equally important.

Debrief process and content

Most discussion after a meeting tends to focus on the content (what was discussed). When debriefing, also make time to discuss the process (how the meeting was conducted). Your team member will learn from both, but will probably learn more from the process.

For example, in a management meeting about recruiting a new staff member:

  • The content might include the role requirements, salary, and headcount restrictions.
  • The process might include unspoken assumptions, hidden agendas, the chairperson’s role in managing the discussion, and the way people stated their opinions.

Discussing the content helps them understand that particular issue; discussing the process gives them a broader perspective about meeting dynamics, office politics, decision making, long-term strategy, budgets, and more.

Ask first

It’s tempting to treat debriefing as an opportunity for you to “share your greater wisdom” with your team member. However, you will gain more by asking first for their input and taking the time to listen. This encourages them to be assertive, allows them to express their ideas, lets you choose which issues to address, and helps you understand their level of understanding.

If you’re doing this for the first time with a team member, they might find it difficult to share their ideas. In that case, prompt them to share by asking questions. For example, you could use the What / So what / Now what structure, which goes like this:

  • What? What did they notice (for example, “Jamie looked nervous talking about the new person’s salary”)?
  • So what? Why do they think that happened (“Maybe her project is going to have a budget blow-out”)?
  • Now what? What could happen next, or what do they suggest as possible next steps (“Perhaps we should have a private conversation with her, because that could affect our budget as well”)?

Share your expertise

Your team member won’t always identify everything important, so it’s your responsibility to identify other things worth discussing. You can use the same What / So what / Now what structure to frame your thoughts.

Be prepared to justify what you say – and in fact, encourage your team member to ask “Why?” frequently. At first, this might sound like a small child repeatedly crying “But why?” However, it can be very useful for both of you (as long as you don’t end up saying “Because I said so – that’s why!”).

For example, if it was you who suggested the private conversation with Jamie, your team member could ask “Why?” to understand:


You: “Because it’s better to know about her problem now than wait for next month’s meeting – which might be too late.”


You: “Because the next three weeks are critical for us, and we can’t afford any delays.”


You: “Because we need to send Paul the widget design by the 15th, and if that’s delayed, everything down the track is delayed, all the way up to the launch in November.”

By digging deeper using “Why” questions, the team member understands the real reasons behind your thinking.

Look forward

Another benefit of digging deeper with “Why” questions is that sometimes your team member suggests options you hadn’t considered. In fact, a very valuable feature of debriefing is that you get to “bounce your ideas” off somebody else, and the fact that it’s somebody less experienced doesn’t make the process any less valuable.

As your team members become more familiar with the process, you can – and should – ask for their advice as well. They will often contribute valuable ideas, opinions and perspectives.

Debrief the debrief

There is no ideal way to conduct a debrief, and different people will do it differently. For example, one team member might be happy to do it immediately after a meeting, while somebody else might prefer to reflect for an hour.

Start with whatever seems best for you, and later (when they become more familiar with the process) ask them for suggestions to improve the process.

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Is YOUR Business Safe from Disruption?

 12th October 2017 by gihan

Did you see the recent report from Seek and the NAB about which industries are growing the fastest in Australia? According to the report, four industries are leading the pack when it comes to increased employment and higher salaries:

  • Building and construction
  • Healthcare and social assistance
  • Education and training
  • Accommodation and food services

According to Tapas Strickland, senior economist at the NAB:

“Over the past year, these industries combined have been responsible for 91% of Australia’s employment growth despite only comprising 38% of total employment in the economy.”

But are those really a safe long-term bet?

If you’re working in these industries, you might feel reassured that they are growing and creating more opportunities. But don’t be complacent! Even in these fastest-growing industries, technology and automation are eroding the way work gets done.

Here are four examples – one from each of these industries …

1. Building and construction – a one-armed robot bricklayer

Did you think you should be a brickie, because we’ll always need houses, so you’ll never be out of a job? Think again.

It’s not even news anymore that 3D printers can “print” a house in hours. And now, Perth-based company Fastbrick Robotics is working on a robot bricklayer that can build a house in a day. The robot can lay 1,000 bricks an hour – five times as much as a good brickie on a good day.

2. Healthcare – AliveCor

If you have a heart condition, you used to need to go to a cardiologist or experienced GP for regular ECGs.

But now, there’s an app for that. AliveCor provides a small device you attach to your smartphone, and you can do an ECG yourself … instantly … and the results are sent wirelessly to a remote monitoring centre.

What’s more, it’s free, because the company knows the data they gather are more valuable than the money they could charge patients. In fact, they predict that in 10 years’ time, they will have enough data to be able to predict heart attacks and strokes before they occur.

3. Education and training – MOOCs

The traditional way of doing training is to get everybody to “down tools” and gather in a training room to attend a course.

But now online training is replacing much of the traditional training course – and it can do it better, faster, and in a more customised way. Large organisations like Accenture, Deloitte, Target and Ticketmaster have extensive in-house online training programs. But even if you don’t have their resources and budget, you can get access to high-quality online courses – free or for a small fee – through the hundreds of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).

4. Accommodation and food services

When we have robots doing all the work, we’ll have more leisure time, right? At least, that’s one theory, and one reason why leisure industries like accommodation and food might be seen as future-proof jobs and careers.

But not so fast! A company in Japan has already launched two hotels that are completely staffed by robots. The owners want to create “the most efficient hotel in the world”, and although it’s still not perfect, it’s a strong indication of a future trend.

So what does this all mean for YOU?

You might think of these examples as just small players in an industry, and you would be right. But disruption doesn’t happen overnight – it usually does start with small players. And if even the four fastest-growing industries in Australia are facing competition from these disruptive forces, what could this mean for your business?

The message is clear: Innovate! Don’t think disruption can’t happen to you, and don’t wait until somebody else shakes you up.

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