Are You Ready to Lead in a VUCA World?

 14th March 2017 by gihan

I heard somebody say recently that you don’t know what real pain is until you step on a piece of Lego on the floor when walking barefoot from your bedroom to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

OK, it’s a First World problem, I know! But anybody who has had that experience can sympathise with her.

For many business owners and leaders, that’s not a bad analogy for trying to lead an organisation in this fast-changing world.

Only it’s worse.

At least, with the Lego on the floor, you might have known it was there, you had the option of turning on the light, and you could step carefully around it.

But what if you didn’t have any light, you were walking on slippery polished floorboards, and the Lego pieces keep randomly moving around the floor?

In the business world, they don’t call it Lego – that would be so childish!

They call it VUCA.

Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous.

The future is:

  • Brittle (volatile): We look ahead and think we know what’s coming up, but it doesn’t take much to shake it up, and then everything seems to change.
  • Slippery (uncertain): We feel like we’re always walking on shifting, slippery, shaky, ground – and that sometimes paralyses us.
  • Fuzzy (ambiguous): Even the things we can see aren’t clear, so it’s tricky to “get a handle” on them.
  • Messy (complex): Many things are inter-connected, and there are no simple answers anymore. Sometimes we don’t even know the right questions!

You know all this, of course, because you might be living it. But knowing it is only the first step.

How do you lead in this brittle, slippery, messy and fuzzy world?

The big mistake most leaders make is to try to simplify the world. But that doesn’t work.

You can clear the Lego from the floor today, but tonight it will be there again. And tomorrow. And the day after. And you can’t wait until the kids outgrow Lego before making another midnight trip from your bedroom!

Don’t try to simplify the world around you – that’s a battle you can’t win.

Instead, aim for clarity – so you can operate in a world that isn’t simple anymore.

This means accepting the brittle, slippery, messy and fuzzy world – and figuring out how to lead in it.

Here are a few differences between leaders who try to achieve simplicity and those who aim for clarity:

What will YOU do differently?

I’ve only given you some broad principles here, but I hope they are enough to get you thinking about your own leadership style.

You might be doing some of these things already – if so, great! If not, it might mean learning some new skills – and perhaps unlearning some old skills that worked for you in the past.

Welcome to the future!

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Recommended Podcast: Between Worlds

 10th March 2017 by gihan

Australian futurist Mike Walsh interviews interesting people from his travels around the world. The audio quality isn’t always the best, because some of the interviews are in a noisy cafe or conference hall, but the content is usually interesting.

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The Six Disruptive Forces That Will Turn Your Business Upside Down

 8th March 2017 by gihan

If I asked you to name a disruptive company – quick! – I reckon there’s a pretty good chance you would name Uber. And that’s fair enough. There’s no doubt Uber has disrupted the taxi industry – a long-established, entrenched industry that’s completely been turned upside down by Uber.

And hardly a week goes by that I don’t hear some speaker at a conference talking about “The Uberisation of [their industry]” or “Uberfying [their business]”.

So yes, Uber is certainly the poster child for digital disruption, but it shouldn’t be!

Let me tell you about my new insurance company …

My insurance broker recently reviewed all my insurance policies and recommended a number of changes – including moving me to AIA for one of my insurances (TPD or trauma, I think??? I don’t know – insurance talk puts me to sleep, but I trust Todd to do the right thing for me).

AIA gave me better coverage (tick!) and for a lower premium (tick! tick!), but also gave me some unexpected benefits as part of their AIA Vitality program. One of the biggest benefits is a 10% discount on all Qantas flights. As somebody who lives in Perth and travels a lot, that’s a huge benefit – and is worth more to me than the lower premium (but, hey, I’m not knocking that back).

So why is AIA disruptive?

You might look at this and think that’s nothing special. So a company is offering some extra benefits that might give it a competitive edge over others in the industry. Smart? Yes. But disruptive? Hmmm …

And I agree that AIA isn’t disrupting the insurance industry. But it has a huge impact on the travel industry.

Most travel agents struggle to make anything near 10% margin on airline bookings. Suddenly, along comes somebody else – a random company from completely outside their industry – who pulls the rug out from under them.

And you know what? AIA probably didn’t even think about it. They weren’t trying to compete in the travel industry – they just found a smart way to attract more customers. The travel agents are just unfortunate victims of this smart idea.

What about Uber?

Uber is different. Sure, it’s disruptive, but it has deliberately taken on an established industry.

It’s not just a startup, but an upstart, because it plays outside the rules. It was – and sometimes still is – illegal in many places, but it offers such a compelling experience that governments and society are changing the rules to allow it.

The taxi industry could have done many of the things Uber does – online payments, no credit card fees, GPS tracking, cashless commerce, driver/passenger ratings, and so on – but chose not to, until it was too late. Sure, there were some other things the taxi industry couldn’t do, but there were so many things it could have done. But it was in a tightly regulated, tightly controlled, profitable industry – and didn’t see the writing on the wall.

These are two of the six disruptive forces.

Uber is a Level 4 disruptive force – an upstart (somebody who disrupts an industry from outside, sometimes breaking the rules).

AIA is at Level 5 – a random (somebody who disrupts a completely separate industry – sometimes unintentionally).

In total, there are six kinds of disruptive forces: competitor, dominator, startup, upstart, random, and terminator.

You can probably guess what some of these mean, but if you’d like to know more about them in detail, watch my recent webinar recording:

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

“That ‘randoms’ play outside the rules”

“Awareness – thought provoking insights into impacts of competition and trying to stay ahead of the game”

“You only have to outrun the competition!”

“The example of driverless cars”

“To think about the different types of disruptive forces”

“The ideas of up-starts, randoms and terminators is new, and give me more ways of looking at possible emerging players.”

“The types of disruptive forces and how to apply to my industry”

“Concept of upstarts”

“Made me think about possible disruptions to my business and profession”

“To analyze other areas competition falls in”

“About upstarts and terminators”

“to be aware of the possibility of Terminators coming along and wiping out our industry “

“The big picture of emerging economies from now to 2050”

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.

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Managing Conflict in Distributed Teams

 1st March 2017 by gihan

Conflicts are inevitable in any workplace, but can be particularly challenging in distributed teams, where team members don’t work in the same office. As a leader, it’s important to understand these differences, so you can prevent conflicts before they occur if possible, and address them promptly when they do occur.

Listen To the Episode

Download the MP3 file here

The Fit for the Future Podcast brings you regular ideas, interviews and insights about how you, your teams and your organisation can become fit for the future.

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How to Build a TED-Style Online Presentation in One Hour or Less – Free Webinar Tomorrow

 27th February 2017 by gihan

The world-famous “TED Talks” have set a new standard in presentation skills, and many audiences expect far more now from presenters. This can be a challenge for online presentations, because some of the techniques that work for a TED Talk don’t work in online presentations. But you can still learn from the best TED Talks, and use or adapt these techniques to make your next online presentation zing!

Join me in this webinar, hosted by Logmein (the people behind GoToWebinar, GoToTraining and GoToMeeting), as I share the secrets of the best TED speakers, and show you how to use them in your online presentations.

In this live, interactive webinar, you will learn how to:

  • Build rapport with a remote audience
  • Design attractive slides (fast!) to enhance your message
  • Selectively use your webcam to provide a more personal connection
  • Shift the energy regularly with interactive engagement techniques

All of these techniques apply just as well to in-person presentations. So if you make any presentations at all, come along to this webinar and learn how to take your presentations to another level.

When: Tuesday 28th February 2017, 11am BST (U.K.), 7pm Perth, 10pm Sydney/Melbourne

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Is Storytelling Really As Powerful As We Think?

 23rd February 2017 by gihan

Storytelling is a very important part of modern communication, especially with the availability of tools and technology that make it easier to design, tell and share stories.

You will often hear communication experts talk about the power of stories to touch the heart and change the world, but storytelling expert Sisonke Msimang – from the Centre for Stories – offers a different perspective. In her TED Talk, “If a story moves you, act on it”, she warns us that stories aren’t always as powerful as we might think.

She says:

“It’s not uncommon to hear people say that stories make the world a better place. Increasingly, though, I worry that even the most poignant stories … can often get in the way of action towards social justice.”

She presents three reasons:

  • Stories can create an illusion of solidarity, but just listening to a story doesn’t accomplish anything.
  • We are drawn towards characters and protagonists who are likable – but that also means we’re less attracted to characters we don’t like, and they are often the people with the most important messages.
  • We can get so invested in the personal narratives that we forget to look at the bigger picture.

Watch the full humorous and thought-provoking TED Talk here:

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Light the Fire of Innovation

 21st February 2017 by gihan

A fire needs three elements (sometimes called “the fire triangle”): fuel, heat, and oxygen. The fuel burns, the heat starts the fire, and oxygen provides energy for it to keep burning.

Lighting the fire of innovation under your team members uses these same three components (metaphorically):

  1. Create the space (fuel): Create an environment that allows and encourages innovation.
  2. Ignite a spark (heat): Don’t just leave idea-generation to chance; prompt it by asking interesting questions that encourage thinking in different ways.
  3. Fan the flames (oxygen): Recognise and reward the ideas, and then act on them.

These three stages work together to foster innovation in your team. You first create a supportive environment for new ideas, prompt team members to share those ideas, and then act on them. That demonstrates your commitment, which in turn encourages them to suggest even more ideas.

This is a simple concept, but with a lot of depth. When you consider what action to take now, consider all three areas.

In particular, if you think your team doesn’t have a safe and constructive environment that encourages innovation, start by creating that environment for them in small ways. It’s not enough to just tell them to be more innovative. Look for ways to give them permission, focus and time. For example, set aside ten minutes in your regular staff meeting for sharing innovative ideas.

The next step is to direct the innovation (ignite a spark) by asking questions that generate different ways of thinking – for example:

  • “How could we make this (faster/cheaper/obsolete)?”
  • “What are other industries doing?”
  • “How could we involve our customers more?”
  • “What if [this important thing we’re doing now] was made illegal tomorrow?”

Innovative ideas can come from anywhere, so don’t think too much about asking specific questions in a particular order. Choose them at random, share them with the team, and see where they lead.

Then, be proactive in putting the ideas into action. Even a small action that creates a small change is better than none at all, especially if you’re creating an innovative space for the first time. If an idea creates a big change, opt for that idea first, because it will help build momentum.

Innovation is an ongoing process, not an event. It’s better to start small with a process you can repeat rather than a grand one-off event that quickly loses momentum.

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The Idea-Driven Organization

 16th February 2017 by gihan

Every business needs to innovate, and innovation is everybody’s business now. You can’t rely anymore on leaving innovation to an R&D team – you must involve everybody.

That’s the big idea behind the book “The Idea-Driven Organization: Unlocking the Power in Bottom-Up Ideas”, by Alan Robinson and Dean Schroeder.

It’s a simple and compelling idea. After all, your front-line employees interact most with customers, and see your products and services in action – so they are often the best-placed people to innovate. They are also smarter, savvier, and more talented than ever before, so they want to contribute – and will, if you encourage them.

The authors first developed this idea in their book “Ideas Are Free”, and now expand on that to show you how to build this into your organisation. Even if you haven’t read the first book, you will still get value from the second.

This book tackles the big challenges of turning your entire organisation into an innovation-centric and idea-driven organisation. It addresses this at a strategic level, looking at issues such as:

  • Understanding why managers and leaders are blind to ideas
  • Aligning strategy, structure and goals to innovation
  • Avoiding simplistic solutions (such as electronic suggestion boxes)
  • Implementing this throughout your entire organisation

This book is pitched at a high enough level to suit senior leaders in larger businesses. However, the ideas and principles apply to organisations of any size.

Want More? Watch My Webinar “Light Up – Innovate Now”

Register for the webinar series here.

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