nexxworks Inspiring organizations to act on their day after tomorrow en Fri, 21 Jan 2022 14:30:48 +0000 Fri, 21 Jan 2022 14:30:48 +0000 Ebook: Trends for Building a Better Future 960 Ebook: Trends for Building a Better Future Fri, 21 Jan 2022 09:00:00 +0000 This year’s edition of our trend e-book is extra special because we asked our awesome contributors to zoom in on their favorite evolutions that will help us create a better future. And, boy, did they deliver!  What follows, are more than 30 trends, scenarios or words of advice to inspire us to strive towards a better future for our employees, our customers, our (fellow) citizens, our companies and our natural context.

With contributions from:

Nir Eyal, Naomi Oreskes, Dave Snowden, Adrian Bejan, Peter Hinssen, Greg Satell, Frederik Anseel, Laëtitia Vitaud, Chris Skinner, Brett King, Jeremy Lent, Celine Schillinger, Wouter Van Noort, Maïmonatou Mar, Jan Rotmans, Mischa Verheijden, Wayne Visser, Lucien Engelen, Rogier De Langhe, Leen Gorissen, Jessica Groopman, Reon Brand, Nancy Rademaker, Rik Vera, Mieke De Ketelaere, Ken Hughes, Steven Van Belleghem, Pascal Coppens, Shannon Lucas, Tracy Lovejoy, Philipp Kristian, Andrew Winston & Laurence Van Elegem.


PODCAST: Radar - by nexxworks January 2021 960 PODCAST: Radar - by nexxworks January 2021 Tue, 18 Jan 2022 09:57:00 +0000 In this episode, Radar podcast host Steven Van Belleghem and his #nexxworks friends Peter Hinssen and Pascal Coppens discuss the most exciting tech and business news of the past month:

  • Meta looking into NFT, DAO and blockchain expansion (If you’re as enthusiastic as us about these subjects check our Web 3.0 Tour in May in London, hosted by Steven Van Belleghem and Peter Hinssen).
  • Alibaba betting on virtual meetings in the metaverse with DingTalk AR glasses
  • Best Buy launching an in-house media company
  • Supermarket chain Jumbo signing a partnership agreement with fast grocery delivery service Gorillas
  • The Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes trial and the consequences of the typical “Fake it till you make it” approach in entrepreneurship
  • John Deere’s new fully self-driving tractor
  • And the common prosperity trend in China (Keep an eye out for our new trend e-book where Pascal Coppens wrote about this (it will be posted on our blog on 19/01): just one of the stories from awesome writers like Nir Eyal, Naomi Oreskes, Dave Snowden, Peter Hinssen, Greg Satell, Frederik Anseel, Laëtitia Vitaud, Chris Skinner, Brett King, Jeremy Lent, Steven Van Belleghem and many, many (many!) more).

Hope you enjoy this episode and please be so kind as to share it, rate us or follow our channel, if you like what you hear:

If you prefer to listen on Apple Podcasts, you can do that here.

The Joy of CX 960 The Joy of CX Mon, 17 Jan 2022 12:56:00 +0000 Ken Hughes Blue Monday – one of the most depressing days of the year. The Christmas credit card bill has arrived, the days are still short and your New Year’s Resolutions have already fallen by the wayside. This year we also have the Omicron cloud raining down on us making our Blue Monday even more depressing.

So, to brighten up your day, rather than discussing technology or AI or digital CX, let’s focus on JOY and the human side of getting consumer connections right. Technology enables so much, but ultimately you need the creative spark of a human to truly connect. We still all have our spark, right?

Silicon or Soul?

I am often asked what is most important in building a brand or business. Is it systems and software, the AI data-led decision-making & personalisation strategies or is it the human touch, the emotional connection, the smile? There is no easy answer obviously, but connecting with a consumer in a way that touches them, that truly emotively engages them, is the way to build a brand advocate.

The Peer-to-Peer Economy, with its community and reviews, dictates so much of a brand's success today. Giving your customer a reason to tell your brand story is paramount, and so ‘story-telling’ has become a key objective for any business. How do we get our consumers to tell our story for us? How do we build loyal and tribal brand fans? Well, the answer is to engage them emotionally.

Time to Get Emotional

Emotions are mad things. We have all made bad decisions in our personal life, which later on reflection, we can see were driven by emotions we either misunderstood or couldn’t control. I remain fascinated by Behavioural Economics and the study of human irrationality; particularly how emotional response can override rational decision-making in humans.

The mistake most brands make is they fail to engage their customers emotionally. They fail to reach in and make a difference in their customers' lives beyond a straight transaction. Anyone who is interested in human relationships, either personally or in a HR environment, will be familiar with Emotional Intelligence. Anyone setting off on a journey in a new romantic relationship is certainly well advised to see if they are on the same EQ. I think, sadly, some brands have the EQ of a stone.

It’s All About the Feels

So how does one go about developing Brand EQ? That answer is superbly simple. Look to make a difference in people’s lives. Excite your customers. Delight them. Give them more than they expect. Be clever and curious in your marketing communications. Get personal with customers, show you know them, show you genuinely care. Get creative in everything you do. Go through your Customer Journey and put every moment under a magnifying glass. What can you do here to make it more engaging? How can we make our customers smile? What can we do to make them feel something?

If our customers feel something, then we are succeeding. Sadly, too often, the only thing customers feel is disappointment or frustration, or maybe brand apathy. These are not the feelings I am proposing you propagate. Brands like IKEA and Virgin have strong EQ, they have it in their DNA.

Brand Loyalty remains a very misunderstood term. Many brands mistake a customers’ repeated transactions for loyalty. It is not. Emotive Loyalty (I feel a connection to this brand or business) is very different to Transactional Loyalty (I buy this because the price is low, the store is near me, the product suits my needs). The former is a genuine connection, the latter easily undercut by a new competitor.

Joy and Delight is the ultimate competitive advantage

The said, I find that a lecture like the above on emotive connection only ever goes so far. While few will argue with anything I have written, similarly, I haven’t made you feel anything either. Which means that you won’t tell this story to yourself later (when writing a brand strategy) or share with others. So, to drive this message home, I need you to connect with the message. To feel something. If I can do that, then you will understand.

Can You Feel It?

A few years ago, I came across this video from Samsung. I use it in many of my talks as a great example of what you get when you humanly connect. Watch it. Experience how it feels when we feel connected, when we are emotively engaged in an experience. It is a beautiful thing.

CX should be joyful. Think about how you felt watching that experience from Samsung, and you aren’t even Muharrem, you were just watching him experience it. Emotive experiences are powerful and every brand needs to make it its mission to harness and deliver on EQ.

If your customer isn’t smiling or laughing or crying (in a good way!) you are doing something wrong. Fix that. Work on your brand EQ. Human existence is all about connection. If your CX mission becomes to joyfully connect with your customer, business success should follow.

If all that hasn’t made you happier this Blue Monday, do what us Irish do. Pour yourself a Jameson over ice, light the fire (using the Christmas credit card bill) and relax. It’ll all work out and the diet starts next Monday, probably, possibly, potentially…

This blog contains extracts from Ken Hughes’ latest international CX keynote speech entitled LOVE IS A VERB. To find out more about this keynote click here.

Ken Hughes is now considered one of the World’s leading speakers on the subject of customer experience, consumer values, organizational change, leadership, and agility. His virtual and live in-person keynotes are famous for their high-energy, thought-provoking content as well as their impactful and inspiring delivery.

Interview with Jeremiah Owyang: Brands are using NFTs to Drive Customer Engagement and Loyalty for their CX Strategy 960 Interview with Jeremiah Owyang: Brands are using NFTs to Drive Customer Engagement and Loyalty for their CX Strategy Thu, 06 Jan 2022 15:18:00 +0000 Steven Van Belleghem As you all know, I have been deeply fascinated by the NFT (Non fungible tokens) trend for these past few months, believing that – although we are still very much in the hype phase at this moment – it holds incredible potential for changing the game of customer loyalty, through a new concept that I like to call branded economies (read my piece about that here).  Another big believer in the potential of NFTs is my friend Jeremiah Owyang who’s a Tech Analyst at Kaleido Insights and whom we visited many times with our nexxworks innovation tours. Always deeply interested by the insights and vision of Jeremiah and his team, I decided to pick his brain about the matter in an in-debt interview. For those who are new to NFTs, I would advise to first read this primer from the Verge which Jeremiah recommended.

Driving loyalty

So, NFTs can be art, video, music, or animations that customers can purchase to access perks, join communities, or resell the asset. I talked with Jeremiah about how the NFT craze has been hot during the last few quarters of 2021, as wealthy crypto investors are collecting rare digital art, that often dramatically increases in value, or grants utility to premium online experiences, and/or is a ticket to an elite community of other NFT holders. Jeremiah, too, sees marketers increasingly adopt NFT technology to connect to their customers to drive engagement and loyalty. Brands tend to follow the latest consumer trends, and NFTs are no exception here. The evolution makes a lot of sense, of course: “with quarantine reducing the number of people visiting stores or attending events, humans sought other ways to connect with experiences they are passionate about”, as Jeremiah explained.

So NFTs are hot. But they also aren’t. As Jeremiah quipped: “Go up to anyone on the street and ask if they want to buy your NFT and you may get arrested for drug solicitation”. Still very few people know what NFTs (really) are and the fact that users need to hold Ethereum and understand how to use crypto wallets is still a big stumbling block for adoption.

Part of the Web 3.0 Trend:

Jeremiah also went on to explain how NFTs are a significant part of the Web 3.0 trend, where consumers and citizens are in charge of their own data, identity, and monetization. Rather than rely on centralized platforms, the crowd is empowered through decentralized technologies to build, manage, and own the internet they are creating. They are using powerful technologies such as crypto currencies, where they can create their own powerful economies, social tokens to facilitate value among a community or online creators, or creating and trading NFTs.

So what’s the difference with the former social media era (Web 2.0) and the sharing economy? Well, in that paradigm, the people were promised they’d have control over their data and monetization. In reality, though, the technology platforms became centralized and power was relegated to a few people. But now, during the pandemic when people are rethinking their relationships with institutions, they are using new Web 3.0 technologies to claim back their identity and their data.

Jeremiah is also a great source of top concrete examples and cases when it comes to new trends, which is exactly why I love talking to him so much. We discussed Coca-Cola, for instance, selling a handful of unique digital NFT art to fans, including a cooler, a jacket, and a unique sound experience for $500k or 217$ ETH (ETH or Ether is the transactional token that facilitates operations on the Ethereum network) resulting in press, media, and of course, new revenues from digital assets.

Above: Coca-Cola offered a virtual jacket as an NFT to their fans, it sold, as part of a campaign for a cause for over $500k USD.

Beer brand Stella Artois, then, has launched a campaign by auctioning off fifty rare horses in conjunction with the summer racing schedule. This wasn’t just a static art sale, though. There’s a digital race track, which offers a virtual game, and winners receive a sliver of ETH. Also, if you have ever collected the Hot Wheels cars, you know the community is very enthusiastic about owning, racing, and enjoying these collectibles. So it’s a smart move from Mattel to launch a campaign which offered three digital Hot Wheels NFTs (only 1 quantity each) which sold for a handful of ETH each. Luxury brand Dolce & Gabbana, in its turn, launched “Collezione Genesi” an NFTs collection that features items personally designed by the co-founders Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana. The project launched on August 28th, 2021, in parallel with their real world runway show in Venice, Italy. Visa has acquired a famed CryptoPunk for $150k, waking up the financial services markets to the possibilities.  It will use this NFT in their digital museum as an artifact and while they didn’t design and launch their own, this is a notable sign from a leading financial services company. The largest entertainment brand in the world, Disney Inc, has also launched numerous Marvel NFTs on the Veve platform in summer 2021. They announced that the relatively quiet Veve exchange will connect to the Ethereum network in Oct 2021, which may lead to greater adoption of these historic NFTs.

We talked about much more notable case examples like how the Olympics launched NFT commemorative pins in June, 2021 or how  Clinique’s first NFT ties to loyalty and products as uses expand in Oct, 2021 and how French Beauty House Guerlain Presents Energy-Efficient Tezos NFTs At The International Contemporary Art Fair In Paris in Oct, 2021. Though all of this is still happening in the margins, and often more gimmick than anything else, the examples keep piling up. This trend is clearly not going to go away.

Owning a piece of the brand

For Jeremiah, it’s clear that “the many large brands who have launched NFTs are engaging their customers, by enabling them to own a piece of the brand”. It’s that latter ownership part that I’m most excited about when it comes to NFTs: they really involve the customer, who then becomes an active part of the exchange instead of a passive, receiving one. Customers with an NFT stake in a company have a shared interest: if the company does well, the value of the NFT will rise and then they will do well too. If they win, you win. If they lose, you do too. And as the customers now benefit when the brand performs better, they will therefore become their ambassador. That’s really exciting, game changing stuff. (Read my piece about the branded economy here.)

No surprise that Jeremiah believes that there will be so many NFT projects launching in 2022 that it will be difficult for brands to stand out in a crowded market. He advises brands to act now and take advantage of the fact that they will be early movers in the market. Whatever the case, this might be the best time to start experimenting with NFTs to really understand what their potential could be.

The original article appeared here.

Five Reasons Why Los Angeles Became The Most Innovative City In The US 960 Five Reasons Why Los Angeles Became The Most Innovative City In The US Tue, 04 Jan 2022 10:00:00 +0000 Jodie Hopperton I recently came across a mainstream media article entitled: billions pour into LA as it gears up to be the next Silicon Valley.

It’s true, billions are pouring into the city and there is a vast amount of innovation, however I don’t agree with the second part of the statement: Los Angeles isn’t the ‘next Silicon Valley’ it’s very different and there are a number of reasons for that.

When we talk about Innovation, it is usually synonymous with startup ecosystems and doesn’t belong to one city alone. Silicon Valley is renowned at the origin of big tech that has radically changed our lives and the ‘Start Up Nation’ of Israel has more startups and Venture Capitalists per capita than any other country; London’s cultural diversity and proximity to mainland Europe has led to the creation of ‘Silicon Roundabout’; and there are hubs in Detroit, Seattle and many other cities

Here we are specifically looking at the USA’s most innovative city, certainly the city with the most startups being created each month. The Los Angeles startup ecosystem has developed swiftly and it’s getting to grips with becoming a major force of tech influence.

But the most interesting part of this swift development is that this has happened at the cross section with well established industries.

Hollywood’s storytelling roots have intertwined with technology to become the largest video and VR hub in the world. In turn new social media influencers, who have larger and more loyal followings than traditional celebrities, are acting like publishers and attracting bigger and bigger ad budgets. Media giants are innovating with new business models and lines are blurring between traditional studios such as Disney and Dreamworks, and new well funded entrants such as WndrCo and Vertical Networks. In fact the media & entertainment business brings a staggering $161bn to the economy.

Aside from Hollywood, Los Angeles has a history of innovation in other industries such as space exploration. It is home to NASAs R&D centre, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Northrup Grumman's 110-acre campus housing their most innovative and influential aerospace designs, and of course SpaceX which occasionally delights the city's residents with an unannounced spaceship launches (causing comical UFO speculations across social media).

Los Angeles is the number one manufacturing center in the US, it has a vast leisure & tourism (with 29.4 million hotel nights sold) and we haven’t even touched on other successful companies that originated in Los Angeles in recent years - such as Bird, the fastest company to reach a billion dollar valuation, Snapchat, Riot Games and Dollar Shave Club.

Historically much of the VC money has been in Silicon Valley but again, this is shifting. There are now 104 VC firms in Los Angeles. There are also 33 accelerators, 43 incubators and 73 co-working spaces that support the 1,145+ startups that call Los Angeles their home. In 2017 alone 300 of these companies were funded, and another 80 had exits to larger companies.

In fact now Los Angeles is the fast growing startup ecosystem in the US, with the highest US rate of the adult population starting a new business each month.

For years business executives from all over the world have been taking pilgrimages to Silicon Valley to try and understand the basis for the innovation that has developed there. In recent years the interest has shifted to Los Angeles.

As the leading West Coast agency developing innovation study tours we have been spending more time with executives discussing industries in Los Angeles and what can be learned from them. Whilst nothing beats the face-to-face conversations with founders and CEOs to demystify the secret sauce that makes innovative companies tick here are some general observations about what has created the incredible ecosystem in Los Angeles:

1. Diversity

Los Angeles is more diverse than many other cities, and particularly more so than Silicon Valley. There is even a joke that no one actually comes from Los Angeles. Over 200 languages are spoken by the 10m+ inhabitants and because there isn’t a dominating demographic, the rich cultural diversity is reflected in the creativity of the products and services that are being forged. As Richard Branson, one of the world's most famous Entrepreneurs puts it: “The most talented, thought-provoking, game-changing people are never ‘normal’.”

2. Education

According to LA-based Patrick Soon-Shiong, billionaire surgeon and entrepreneur: "There is a lot of cutting-edge technology going on in LA. With UCLA, USC, CalTech, the Jet Propulsion Lab, the talent here is amazing." In fact there are 113 universities in Los Angeles producing 1.3million college graduates.

3. Connectivity

Los Angeles is home to the two largest seaports in North America, LAX is the biggest airport in the world and Los Angeles is home to over 100 foreign consulates..

4. Standard of living

Los Angeles has an exceptional standard of living (as long as you manage to avoid commuter traffic!). With miles of white sandy beaches, proximity to hills & mountains, residents are able to take advantage of the 274 days of sunshine . It’s is also arguably cheaper than Northern California’s Silicon Valley where home ownership is double that of its Southern counterpart. In fact the cost of living in San Francisco is 56.2% more expensive than Los Angeles.

5. Capital & Pragmatism

Last but not least it is worth noting that historically capital has not been as easy to come by in Los Angeles. This in turn means that companies based there have had to be pragmatic. Less start up capital forces companies to get to profitability much more quickly. This may change as more VCs see the potential and growth is exponential, but for now the mindset of reaching profitability as quickly and efficiently as possible is no bad thing.

Los Angeles is a city that is known for reinvention, constantly re evaluating itself and aiming higher. It has a knack for recognising its past, building on strengths and looking to the future, becoming more resilient and more energised by what’s gone before. No wonder this is the place next generation companies are being born: the city of angels, where dreams are made.

This article by Jodie Hopperton is a repost from the Innov8rs blog. Jodie Hopperton is a British Executive based in Los Angeles and the author of ‘Los Angeles Reinvented: why innovators are moving south of Silicon Valley to the booming home of Hollywood’. As Founder of FORE, she specializes in helping executives navigate the Californian ecosystem providing unparalleled insight to technology and audience shifts by connecting and collaborating with technology pioneers. Jodie’s career spans more than 15 years and multiple countries. Her extensive experience includes working with technology startups in addition to roles such as Director EMEA, Syndication and Licensing, New York Times, & Consultant COO, Global Editors Network.

Business Transformation in 2022: 3 Questions Leaders are Asking 960 Business Transformation in 2022: 3 Questions Leaders are Asking Wed, 22 Dec 2021 09:56:00 +0000 Jessica  Groopman From stability to resilience, from competitive to collaborative, from extractive to regenerative: business leaders across every sector are re-evaluating the fundamental purpose and structure of their organizations. What questions are they asking?

Until recently, successful business has been synonymous with profit maximization. But business metrics are evolving. Profits are still important, but they are not enough. Social and environmental responsibility, inclusivity, and ethics are no longer optional.

This is not about feel-good PR or greenwashing, it is about leaders confronting the practical reality that the fate of any business wishing to survive long-term is directly tied to the fate of the planet and functional society. It is also about consumers’, prospective and current employees’, and investors’ perceptions of the business, and corresponding access to markets, talent, and finance.

These revelations are also impacting digital transformation– how organizations wield technologies and leverage data to deliver customer value, innovate, and sustain vitality. Our research and client work finds that the future of digital transformation is not just about doing more with less, but doing *better with less*– generating and distributing value across stakeholders and using the power of business and scale of technologies to do so.

Emerging technologies, from artificial intelligence to smart devices, blockchain to biotechnologies, are critical tools for aligning economic value with societal and environmental benefit. We’re supporting organizations on this journey, beyond sustainability. Here are three questions we hear from business leaders:

Question 1: How does our business become more sustainable? Beyond pledges and promises, where do we actually begin?

Hundreds of corporations (and governments) around the globe have made all manner of pledges around sustainability, diversity & inclusion, and ethics. Without action, metrics, and accountability, a pledge is nothing more than hollow words. But for business leaders who are sincerely committed to action, a long suite of decisions follows: alignment with business/product/customer/partner strategy, investment allocation, metrics and audits, and beyond.

Delivering on these pledges is not unlike delivering on other strategic endeavors insofar as it requires the right talent, resourcing, and governance. But there are two distinctions leaders must consider:

  1. The universal nature of the imperative. Every organization, community, and person has a stake in reducing planetary harm and improving the systems on which we all depend.
  2. The network effects of business (and digital) ecosystems, and the opportunities embedded therein.

What this translates to in practice is an obvious value proposition, and a wide range of stakeholders, nodes, and possibilities for realizing the effort. Take the example of Interface, a global carpet manufacturer. By applying principles of regeneration across the entire business (from HR to product to finance to factory operations) and its supply chain (both suppliers and potential competitors), efforts compounded to exceed its goals. After achieving its “net zero” target in 2019 (prior to its 2020 goal), Interface is now focused on net positive targets (i.e. not neutralizing harm, but improving benefits to planet and people). The key to action is not just taking a first step, but enabling all “nodes” internal the organization, and across the external ecosystem to act and benefit too.

Question 2: How does customer value fit into this shift towards sustainable and regenerative business?

Customer centricity is, of course, the mantra of modern business. But shifting from extractive business-as-usual requires re-evaluating assumptions around convenience, price, and trust. Who are we actually serving (or hurting) when we frame customer value around price? How are we building trust with customers, and is it obfuscating how products and services are developed? Companies that are embracing regenerative value creation understand that customer value is evolving:

  • From harm to health
  • From obfuscation to transparency
  • From linear/wasteful to circular/re- or upcyclable
  • From destructive to renewable
  • From closed to open (knowledge, governance, markets, opportunities to monetize)

There are many examples of this, but IKEA offers a real-world illustration. Known as a global retailer of home furnishing, the company is not just bolting on sustainable practices to its operations, it is aligning rapid energy transformation with its customer strategy, unlocking novel value propositions (and market opportunities) in the process. Starting in Sweden, IKEA is offering customers affordable, certified solar and wind energy to power their homes, panels and technology infrastructure to support, as well as the capacity to sell back the electricity they don’t use themselves.

Image source: INGKA

Creating a renewable energy marketplace for customers benefits a wide range of people (those who cannot put solar panels on their homes for financial reasons, low light exposure, or because they live in high-density or covenant-controlled areas). The sell-back program aligns incentives between customers, brand, and planet. Reducing customers’ carbon footprints works towards IKEA’s own carbon positive goal by reducing the post-purchase footprint of their products, which it estimates accounts for 20% of its total carbon footprint.

This is one of several examples of evolving customer value, away from one-and-done interactions, towards participating in a network IKEA enables that benefits everyone. The key is generating forms of value that build human capacity and contribute to local prosperity.

Question 3: Can we, as leading businesses in our field, really do this without the broader ecosystem (government, financial, supply chain) community onboard?

Yes. The irony of this question is that, through a competitive lens, innovation speed is dubbed first mover’s advantage. Embedded in this question is uncertainty around how capitalism will adapt to societal and environmental pressures. Leaders need look no further than the 4,152 companies across 77 countries and 153 industries which are B-Corps: those meeting the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.

Source: B-Corps

Businesses– particularly those with massive reach, brand, and infrastructure– have unique leverage to accelerate global (systemic) change through local impact. For example:

  • Improving equity (e.g. through talent acquisition, dignified work, anti-corruption, investing in communities)
  • Improving environmental impact, by reducing emissions, waste, water usage;  implementing clean-up, reforestation, and much more.
  • Empowering local economies (e.g. via investment, regenerative agriculture, circular supply chains)
  • Adopting performance, measurement, and legal standards, holding suppliers to those standards
  • Investing in key enabling technologies (e.g. carbon capture, smart buildings, renewables)

This question also speaks to the mindset shift: business action is not just about repentance through offsetting, given that industry practices account for the vast majority of emissions. It is about overcoming the lack (or fragmentation) of political will, meeting consumer demands, and galvanizing global collaboration through economic influence. Ultimately, it is about wielding the power of business and markets as a positive force that restores, renews, or revitalizes. One that no longer acts in spite of nature, but as nature.

This article originally appeared on

10 trends to keep an eye on in 2022 and beyond 960 10 trends to keep an eye on in 2022 and beyond Tue, 21 Dec 2021 08:50:00 +0000 Laurence Van Elegem 10 trends to keep an eye on in 2022 and beyond

I have been doing some in-depth trend research for the past weeks - for our Radar podcast as well as our upcoming 2022 trend e-book (subscribe here to make sure you get it!) - and I wanted to share some brief insights on what I think might be@ some of the most relevant evolutions for the coming years.

When I say the most relevant, I don’t necessarily mean the most desirable ones. I want to make a clear distinction between possible scenarios on the one hand and desirable ones on the other. But what I have learned this year from Reon Brand, Senior Director Foresight, Trends and People Research at Philips Design, is that most of these trends – desirable or possible – will eventually co-emerge and form something that is different than just the sum of these separate parts.

Whatever the merged result will be, it might be wise to keep an eye out for these 10 evolutions:

1. The Great Discontent

2. “Don’t be evil” is not enough – Be good

3. Every company a healthcare company

4. Le nouveau Space Race

5. Designing the Metaverse

6. Web 3.0

7. A hybrid future of work

8. Smartest Cities

9. Quantum human relations

10. Humility as the new confidence

1. The Great Discontent

The Great Resignation is just a small blip in a larger wave of general dissatisfaction. The pandemic has accelerated our introspection, critical opinion and desire for change. Many of our systems were already broken for some time but now we are finally speaking up about their failure. We are holding governments, companies – Big Tech and others – and other large systems accountable for their mismanagement of our (mental) health, social structures and the environment. And we expect them to do better from now on. This is both a threat and an opportunity for companies. But for those who are investing time, money and talent in building a better future, there will be benefits to reap.

2. “Don’t be evil” is not enough – Be good

This changed mindset is forcing companies and governments to redefine the nature and delivery of value. And the ambitions are high. They are expected to move from the old extractive business paradigm – beyond ‘merely’ sustainability – to regenerative business models (get a first glimpse at our new “Future of Regenerative Economy Tour” here), where value is added to society, nature and economy instead of extracted. This new form of economy is both called the next great disruption (after digital) and a massive opportunity for innovation and new business models. The difficult part will be to balance the thirst for short-term revenue and growth with a longer-term vision and powerful redefinition of value.

3. Every company a healthcare company

Together with finance, healthcare will remain one of the most popular industries to enter in the coming years: not just for startups but for long(er) lived companies looking to diversify as well. Players like Ping An, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Philips and even Best Buy have been launching themselves in this market (some for a while now).

This growth of healthcare business models is a trend that started well before COVID and data is one of the reasons (though not the only one) for its success: if you sell devices or services that in any way or other gather data that is useful for (mental) health, you too could diversify into healthcare services. But it works just as much the other way around: if you add healthcare services to your offering, you’ll gather a lot of useful data about your users too. This is a trend that is here to stay. It started in traditional health but is quickly moving into mental health and wellbeing, with affective technology as a fast growing segment. To illustrate the latter: Gartner predicts that 10% of personal devices will have emotion AI capabilities, either on-device or via cloud services by 2022. This number was less than 1% in 2018.

Looking for more inspiration? Join our monthly innovation newsletter!

4. Le nouveau Space Race

Space transportation is becoming a solid commercial opportunity with players like Blue Origin (Amazon), SpaceX and Virgin Galactic at the helm. I have mixed feelings about this one. I’ve always cherished a lot of fascination about space since I was young (having watched the BBC documentary The Planets multiple times). But I also think we might have some more burning issues to solve here on earth, first. And yes, I’m aware of the fact that some people are investigating other planetary homes for humanity now that we are destroying ours. But this path will take many years and we should also very much try to concentrate on not destroying our current home.

My ethical reservation aside, this segment might offer (long term) opportunities for companies, even those that have nothing to do with transportation. Apparel companies could make special suits for commercial space travelers. Healthcare companies could investigate medicines for the discomforts of space travel (like for space adaptation syndrome (SAS), though some meds already exist for that). And should luggage be adapted to space travel? Or which types of home will we need on Mars?

5. Designing the Metaverse

Meta, Microsoft, Active Theory, Epic games and others are all building (some form or part of) the metaverse. It’s very early days and could go in any direction - good or bad (or both) - but they are basically investigating how to create an immersive parallel universe, some sort of digital twin of the ‘real’ one, with a second personal life, economy and all sorts of social structures. Big players are already investigating how they can claim a place in the Metaverse, which is still pretty much in the building phase. Nike, for instance, is building a virtual world called Nikeland on Roblox’s online gaming platform and it recently bought a virtual shoe company that makes NFTs and sneakers for the metaverse. Balenciaga offers outfits and sneakers in Fortnite. Mexican fast-food chain Chipotle opened a virtual restaurant on Roblox. And virtual land in the metaverse is apparently already selling for millions of dollars. Join Steven Van Belleghem to Los Angeles on our next Customer Experience tour, already in Q1 (March).

This could be a bubble waiting to burst, after which this trend will probably start developing in a more normal way. But above all, I’m curious to see how this could impact our own reality: could we test things out there and reduce (social and environmental) failures over here, lowering risk? Could buying new clothes for our avatars reduce our need for ‘real’ new clothes and reduce our ecological footprint. Time will tell.

Just as a side note: if we combine this trend with the one of commercial space travel, we are currently expanding our human universe with two extra spaces: a very old one which was mostly inaccessible for practical reasons (space) and one we are building from scratch but which, theoretically, has unlimited potential (metaverse). Each of these spaces has very different characteristics than our current one, and that is where many business opportunities will lie.

6. All things crypto & Web 3.0

One of the consequences of the Great Discontent is our growing distrust of control and the growing power of some overly manipulative centralized systems. Web 3.0 could represent a paradigm shift for the internet — towards a decentralized, user-focused, and immersive online experience.

For those of you not familiar with Web 3.0, here’s an ultrashort history lesson. The internet’s first chapter - Web 1.0 – consisted of the creation of websites and blogs, which allowed the launch of companies like Yahoo, eBay or Amazon. It was mostly a passive place, where content was mostly consumed. Web 2.0, then, was defined by social media and user generated content on sites like Facebook and YouTube. This iteration was participatory and social, and highly centralized, with power and control in the hands of a few. Web 3.0, finally, runs on blockchain technology and functions much the way a cooperative works, operated collectively by users rather than a corporation. It is decentralized and is thought to eliminate the big middlemen on the internet. (Though ironically, middlemen like Twitter are already investigating how they could integrate Web 3.0 features.) Where users were in many ways the product in Web 2.0, they would be taking back control in Web 3.0.

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The new Web 3.0 paradigm is still mostly theoretical, but I’m always sceptical of stories that are way too optimistic. Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 were also believed to change society for the better and that turned out completely different. Whatever the case, companies ought to investigate what decentralization and data ownership by users will mean for their marketing and data-monetization.

We are planning an open program on this topic in Q2 of 2022, stay tuned via our newsletter.

7. A hybrid future of work

We’ve talked so much about this trend that it has (almost) become boring. But I keep it on the list because of just that reason: we’ve mostly talked about it, and are still investigating how to pivot our work strategy to this forced transition. Work became hybrid because we had no choice, but we’ve also just switched channels and still need to redesign our leadership, culture and offices to develop a working environment that, well, works.

It’s not about channels, but about hiring the right people, offering personalization (everyone’s ideal working environment and regime is different), stimulating self-leadership and autonomy, driving balance, redesigning offices for interactions and serendipity and even watching out for bias (new research confirms a strong bias against remote workers). Deciding how many days you “expect people in the office” is not the same as designing a hybrid work strategy. Keep an eye on our newsletter for our next Future of Leadership tour with Peter Hinssen in Q3 of 2022.

Looking for more inspiration? Join our monthly innovation newsletter!

8. Smartest Cities

It’s easier to build a smart city from scratch to fit the changing needs of society and business than to adapt an ‘old’ one. And so enter highly ambitious greenfield projects like Toyota’s Woven City, Neom Saudi Arabia or Marc Lore’s (founder of and later head of Walmart’s e-commerce efforts) new model for society.

Amidst all our enthusiasm about these exciting human laboratories, we must not underestimate the negative effects of building artificial structures where there used to be forests or mountains and other natural structures. I’m curious to see which approach will win. The new smart cities are basically R & D labs for their developers. But the question is: will these labs work, is the data they are gathering in such an artificial environment not highly biased (to measure is to influence) and why would we destroy nature because of them? Perhaps testing out these theoretical cities might happen in the Metaverse in the future?

9. Quantum human relations

Quantum physics describes the physical properties of nature at the scale of atoms and subatomic particles. It surfaced when classical physics - describing many aspects of nature at an ordinary (macroscopic) scale - proved insufficient for explaining how small (atomic and subatomic) objects function. Both disciplines have operated next to each other for a long time, but recently quite a few academics and authors have been theorizing that some of the (quite weird) characteristics of the quantum world - like entanglement, superposition and particle-wave duality - might also be driving human relations, society and even consciousness. Jeremy Lent (The Web of Meaning, 2021), Carlo Rovelli (Helgoland, 2021), Alexander Wendt (Quantum mind and social science, 2015) and the seminal “Quantum society” by Danah Zohar and Ian Marschall (1994) have all tackled this question in some form or other.

Steve Jobs once told us that “The design is how it works”. Understanding how human relations are designed on a scientific, physics level could help us understand better how any type of social structure works: from society and global relations to organizations of all types. This would be especially relevant in our post-pandemic times, where our isolation has left us starving for human relations.

10. Humility is the new confidence

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s how vulnerable we humans are against unpredictable (natural) forces. That is perhaps the reason why I noticed an increased amount of content on the topic of humility these past few months. Being (intellectually) humble and mindful of our vulnerability, is not just an efficient remedy against polarization, it stimulates the sort of openness that is necessary for creativity and innovation, which are crucial assets in an uncertain and unpredictable world. Paradoxically, those wo are more intellectually humble, are able to learn more and thus to know more as they are more receptive to new information and open to opposing opinions. It’s a quality that is beneficial to leaders, innovators, customer service experts, HR managers and everyone else in charge of future thinking, innovation, strategy and basically anything human-related.

No wonder that some of the contributors of our upcoming 2022 trend e-book (subscribe here to make sure you get it) referred to it in some way or another. AI expert Mieke De Ketelaere warned us to “be more humble and less arrogant about our human intelligence”. While Celine Schillinger advocated for “a new, humbler type of leadership: leadership understood as a collective and relational capacity”. And let’s not forget Jan Rotmans’ and Mischa Verheijden’s assessment that humility (about for instance your career) is also crucial for personal transition.

To help us cope with unpredictability and uncertainty, many are promoting resilience and agility. Yet few understand that intellectual humility is actually the basis of the former two: you can’t adapt and change your mind or way of working if you’re not open to accepting that what you do or think was wrong (for the new situation). In short: unpredictable catastrophes like a pandemic are deeply humbling, which in turn is a helpful mindset for coping with them as well, forcing an efficiently open perspective upon us.

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The 3 Most Common Mistakes of Catalytic Leaders 960 The 3 Most Common Mistakes of Catalytic Leaders Thu, 16 Dec 2021 12:53:00 +0000 Catalyst Constellations After spending time focusing on the challenges shared by all Catalysts. In this post we are going to deep dive into the challenges of Catalysts who are trying to LEAD others through the 3 most common mistakes of Catalytic leaders.

When I met Anika she was in a state of paralysis because she had so many things happening at once. She was in negotiation to become a partner in her medical practice. She had previously run her own practice, but was eager to become part of an existing practice at this stage. She was trying to write a book summarizing research she had been conducting with her patients. She was looking at creating an app to better support her patients and others. And she was thinking about models of medicine and medical practices that she may be able to franchise. She was catalyzing change and everywhere she looked was opportunity.

In the course of our work she decided to take time to focus on the partnership in her practice first, or at least with most dedicated time. There were two existing partners and she was ready to jump in – she had a clear vision of how the practice could improve, could grow, better serve patients and become a model for medical practices around the country.

Yet she kept finding herself frustrated because her partners seemed to respond in baffling ways such as taking long periods of time to respond, looking at her blankly when she was sharing ideas, or even becoming defensive. Anika had worked with these colleagues for some time and had built trust, so she didn’t understand why it felt like they didn’t trust her in these discussions.

Looking back now Anika can see the places she made mistakes that many Catalytic Leaders make.

Models of Leadership

Let’s align around a typical model of leadership. To get things done well a leader can set a vision, orchestrate those that will be contributing or impacted and then implement. We can see the linearity and tactical nature of the model whereby one first creates a vision, then orchestrates the steps and others and then everyone implements each step.

Mission OX

A Typical Leadership Model

For Catalysts this model looks slightly different. Catalysts talk about two additional elements in their process: Storming and Iterating. And rather than tactical implementing, Catalysts talk more of manifesting change.

A Catalytic Model of Leadership

Storming is the period during which an idea is still forming and has not yet crystallized into a Vision. The name explains both the impairment of a lack of clarity – it is hard to see through a storm – and the tumultuous feelings that may accompany this period. This can be a time that feels like mania – both to the catalyst and those closest to them. It can be a wonderful feeling. And can be intensely uncomfortable. There is ambiguity during this period. Some catalysts are comfortable with ambiguity, but many are not. They simply come to understand it is part of the process.

Clarity may emerge over the course of one meeting – collecting data, collecting data, then ZING move to VISION. Or it may take more time. The more complex the problem, likely the more time and inputs it needs to solidify into a Vision.

A second unique element in the Catalytic Leadership model is the magical feeling of manifestation, as opposed to the tactical steps of implementation.

A final difference is that Catalytic Leaders iterate – pretty much from the beginning and every minute thereafter. This is hardly surprising given this is a telltale sign of a Catalyst – to take in new information and make changes based on it. To a Catalyst no endeavor is static… it must bend to the most recent information.

The Mistakes

Now that we have a model to work from, let’s discuss the most common mistakes.

#1 – Sharing Too Soon

The first common mistake that Catalytic Leaders make takes place during the STORM phase. Many Catalysts are external processors so a key way to get through the storm is to talk to people about what they are seeing. Plus they are OOZING with passion and excitement so they are excited to tell people. However, remember from challenges, Catalysts can be feared because they represent change and challenge to the status quo. Therefore talking to people about what you are brewing without a clear idea of the impact it may have on others, their workload, even their jobs, SCARES THEM!! Sharing too soon can result in fear, uncertainty and lack of trust.

Sharing too soon will send people running.

#2 – Jumping from Vision to Manifest…Leaving People Behind

By far the most common mistake Catalytic Leaders make is not taking the time to orchestrate those who will be responsible to drive things forward or will be impacted in some way. Catalysts jump from Vision to Manifestation – because Catalysts often just ‘know’ and move to action without really thinking about it. They often don’t think to create a vision or orchestrate people because they assume those around them saw everything they did. A common refrain of Catalysts: “We were all in the same meeting, I assumed we all heard the same thing, and therefore came to the same conclusion.” The next steps are usually so obvious, it often doesn’t occur to them to explain the steps, let alone a vision, to others.

Even if they do take the time to create and share a vision, being an orchestra conductor doesn’t happen in one share. Orchestrating a movement takes TIME. And impatient, quick moving Catalysts aren’t always great at taking that time. And orchestrating a movement requires REPEATING oneself. However, Catalysts aren’t great at repeating the same thing because they are on to the next thing.

Even when we get comfortable repeating a Vision over and over, the pace of orchestration can be frustrating and exhausting for Catalysts because catalysts naturally work at a superwoman pace. And they are replenished by MANIFESTING. Not by ORCHESTRATING.

Catalysts replenish by manifesting, not orchestrating – so they jump to action.

#3 – Catalytic Leaders Iterating too Quickly and Often

A final common mistake Catalytic Leaders run into is the speed at which they iterate. One of the defining attributes of Catalysts is they have a learning mindset and information is quickly turned into iterative steps for action. Plus a catalyst takes in information real-time (versus taking a long time to process information). Therefore once implementing or manifesting begins they optimize the path on the fly. Sometimes this is an optimization of the implementation process. Sometimes this is an iteration of the Vision itself. For those trying to be a part of a project like this it can feel like quick sand. They may have just met with the leader himself, but hears from a colleague that things are different. This can cause confusion, ambiguity or distrust. Even people very comfortable with change and ambiguity can struggle here, especially if the leader isn’t skilled at orchestrating.

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Iteration that is too fast will feel like quick sand.

How Catalytic Leaders Grow

But not all hope is lost. There are examples of Catalytic Leaders who lead and disrupt beautifully! So let’s talk about what great Catalytic Leaders have learned over time and how they do things differently.

First, during STORMING, successful catalytic leaders lean into co-creation which has two key components:

  • They have a trusted group of people with whom they can share what they are learning, bounce ideas and co-create a vision.
  • As these leaders gain comfort in their skin they are very open about themselves as change agents and disruptors. And they move into roles that call for that. They are hired specifically for that talent. So they can share their process with people. And if they help teams or organizations move through change in ways that align, this becomes part of their brand.

Secondly, learning to slow down and bring people along on the journey is critical. This starts by explaining and modeling their vision, ideally with something tangible that people can interact with and look at later, for example a model or a picture.

Also, successful catalytic leaders learn to repeat the same information over and over. Communication frequency research in advertising has found you need to repeat something to people between 3-21 times to have it get through – the newer the concept, the more times needed. Because Catalysts are usually bringing something very NEW – perhaps an entirely new paradigm – the most successful Catalysts become skilled at sharing the same visuals and presentations over and over and over and over and over and over again… despite their desire to stick a pencil in their eye. They know the importance of this for the long game. This also keeps the Catalytic Leader accountable to not shifting that Vision too drastically.

Ultimately it will help to consider yourself not just a manifestor, but an orchestra conductor. And the orchestra is the way you manifest your bigger movements.

Finally, becoming much more deliberate once the orchestra is playing is important. Successful catalytic leaders learn to slow down optimization and allow the team to gain the skills to evaluate and tweak, only stepping-in to dictate when necessary. Exceptional catalytic leaders know they can’t change the world without bringing the team along … even if that means things won’t happen exactly as they’d like or at the pace they’d like.

Back to Anika

Fast forward to Anika today. She has come to understand her catalytic tendencies and the impact they can have on her partners. Not only has she learned to seed only a few ideas at a time (versus coming with a full page of new ideas each meeting), but she has come to learn that her own ideas actually get better when she slows down and takes the time to co-create with them. Now they have a shared vision and have regularly scheduled meetings to discuss orchestration and implementation toward that future – collaboratively.

This article first appeared on the Catalyst Constellations blog. Read it here.

We Can’t Afford To Just Move Fast And Break Things Anymore 960 We Can’t Afford To Just Move Fast And Break Things Anymore Tue, 14 Dec 2021 13:22:00 +0000 Guest contributor Greg Satell On July 16th, 1945, when the world’s first nuclear explosion shook the plains of New Mexico, the leader of the Manhattan Project, J. Robert Oppenheimer quoted from the Bhagavad Gita, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” Clearly, he was troubled by what he had unleashed and for good reason. The world was never truly the same after that.

Today, however, we have lost much of that reverence for the power of technology. Instead of proceeding deliberately and with caution, tech entrepreneurs have prided themselves on their willingness to “move fast and break things” and, almost reflexively, casually deride anyone who questions the practice as those who “don’t get it.”

It’s hard to see how, by any tangible metric, any of this has made us better off. We set out to disrupt industries, but disrupted people instead. It wasn’t always like this. Throughout our history we have asked hard questions and made good choices about technological progress. As we enter a new era of innovation, we desperately need to recapture some of that wisdom.

How We Put The Nuclear Genie Back In The Bottle

The story of nuclear weapons didn’t start with Oppenheimer, not by a long shot. In fact, if we were going to attribute the Manhattan Project to a single person, it would probably be a Hungarian immigrant physicist named Leo Szilard, who was one of the first to conceive of the possibility of a nuclear chain reaction.

In 1939, upon hearing of the discovery of nuclear fission in Germany he, along with fellow Hungarian emigre Eugene Wigner, decided that the authorities needed to be warned. Szilard then composed a letter warning of the possibility of a nuclear bomb that was eventually signed by Albert Einstein and sent to President Roosevelt. That’s what led to the American development program.

Yet after the explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, many of the scientists who worked to develop the bomb wanted to educate the public of its dangers. In 1955, the philosopher Bertrand Russell issued a manifesto signed by a number of scientific luminaries. Based on this, a series of conferences at Pugwash, Nova Scotia were convened to discuss different approaches to protect the world from weapons of mass destruction.

These efforts involved far more than talk, but helped to shape the non-proliferation agenda and led to concrete achievements such as the Partial Test Ban Treaty. In fact, these contributions were so crucially important that the organizers of the Pugwash conferences were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995 and they continue even today.

Putting Limits On What We Do With The Code Of Life

While the nuclear age started with a bang, the genetic age began with a simple article in the scientific journal Nature, written by two relatively unknown scientists named James Watson and Francis Crick, that described the structure of DNA. It was one of those few watershed moments when an entirely new branch of science arose from a single event.

The field progressed quickly and, roughly 20 years later, a brilliant researcher named Paul Berg discovered that you could merge human DNA with that from other living things, creating new genetic material that didn’t exist in nature. Much like Oppenheimer, Berg understood that, due to his work, humanity stood on a precipice and it wasn’t quite clear where the edge was.

He organized a conference at Asilomar State Beach in California to establish guidelines. Importantly, participation wasn’t limited to scientists. A wide swath of stakeholders were invited, including public officials, members of the media and ethical specialists. The result, now known as the Berg Letter, called for a moratorium on the riskiest experiments until the dangers were better understood. These norms were respected for decades.

Today, we’re undergoing another revolution in genomics and synthetic biology. New technologies, such as CRISPR and mRNA techniques, have opened up incredible possibilities, but also serious dangers. Yet here again, pioneers in the field like Jennifer Doudna are taking the lead in devising sensible guardrails and using the technology responsibly.

The New Economy Meets The New Era of Innovation

When Netscape went public in 1995, it hit like a bombshell. It was the first big Internet stock and, although originally priced at $14 per share, it opened at double that amount and quickly zoomed to $75. By the end of the day, it had settled back at $58.25. Still, a tiny enterprise with no profits was almost instantly worth $2.9 billion.

By the late 1990s, increased computing power combined with the Internet to create a new productivity boom. Many economists hailed the digital age as a “new economy” of increasing returns, in which the old rules no longer applied and a small initial advantage would lead to market dominance.

Yet today, it’s clear that the “new economy” was a mirage. Despite very real advances in processing speed, broadband penetration, artificial intelligence and other things, we seem to be in the midst of a second productivity paradox in which we see digital technology everywhere except in the economic statistics.

The digital revolution has been a real disappointment. In fact, when you look at outcomes, if anything we’re worse off. Rather than a democratized economy, market concentration has markedly increased in most industries. Income inequality in advanced economies has soared. In America wages have stagnated and social mobility has declined for decades. At the same time, social media has been destroying our mental health.

Now we’re entering a new era of innovation, in which we will unleash technologies much more powerful. New computing architectures like quantum and neuromorphic technologies will power things like synthetic biology and materials science to create things that would have seemed like science fiction a generation ago. We simply can no longer afford to be so reckless.

Shifting From Agility Toward Resilience

Moving fast and breaking things only seems like a good idea in a stable world. When you operate in a safe environment, it’s okay to take a little risk and see what happens. Clearly, we no longer live in such a world (if we ever did). Taking on more risk in financial markets led to the Great Recession. Being blase about data security has nearly destroyed our democracy. Failure to prepare for a pandemic has nearly brought modern society to its knees.

Over the next decade, the dangers will only increase. We will undergo four major shifts in technology, resources, migration and demographics. To put that in perspective, a similar shift in demography was enough to make the 60s a tumultuous decade. We haven’t seen a confluence of so many disruptive forces since the 1920s and that didn’t end well.

Unfortunately it’s far too easy to underinvest in order to mitigate the risk of a danger that may never come to fruition. Moving fast and breaking things can seem attractive because the costs are often diffuse. Although it has impoverished society as a whole and made us worse off in so many ways, it has created a small cadre of fabulously wealthy plutocrats.

Yet history is not destiny. We have the power to shape our path by making better choices. We can abandon the cult of disruption and begin to invest in resilience. In fact, we have to. By this point there should be no doubt that the dangers are real. The only question is whether we will act now or simply wait for it to happen and accept the consequences.

This piece was first published on Greg Satell’s own blog.

PODCAST: Radar - by nexxworks December 2021 960 PODCAST: Radar - by nexxworks December 2021 Fri, 10 Dec 2021 08:20:00 +0000 In this special End of Year episode, Radar podcast host Steven Van Belleghem and his #nexxworks friends Peter Hinssen, Pascal Coppens and Laurence Van Elegem discuss what they believe are important trends for the coming years:

  • Web 3.0 and DAOs
  • Central bank digital currencies (CBDC)
  • Commerce of digital assets, NFTs & the metaverse
  • Sustainability as a force of disruption and innovation

They also answered some listener questions (send in yours at if you have any) about the Chinese crackdown, carbon emissions, the API strategy of companies and what the Radar crew members would do if they were the next Prime Minister of Belgium.

Hope you enjoy this episode and please be so kind as to share it, rate us or follow our channel, if you like what you hear:

The new rules for managing knowledge workers in a post-COVID world 960 The new rules for managing knowledge workers in a post-COVID world Thu, 02 Dec 2021 09:10:00 +0000 ​BusinessThink Creative Commons

Managers need to follow a three-step process to get the best performance and productivity out of knowledge workers in hybrid working arrangement

The traditional rules for managing knowledge workers were thrown out the window in 2020. With governments around the world implementing lockdowns to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2, most organisations were caught off guard as they struggled to adapt to an environment in which remote working became the norm almost overnight.

In March 2020 before COVID restrictions were rolled out, Australian Bureau of Statistics research found 24 per cent of employees were working from home. In February 2021 this number increased to 41 per cent. Looking forward, 47 per cent of employees expect the amount of work from home to remain the same, while 11 per cent expect a decrease in work from home and 8 per cent per cent expect an increase in work from home.

And with ongoing restrictions in place around the world, it looks like a blend of remote and office work, or hybrid working, is here to stay – a shift which many employees appear to be happy with. A global PwC survey of 32,500 participants from 19 countries (including more than 2,000 Australians) found only 9 per cent of those who can work remotely want to go back to a traditional commute and work environment full-time, 19 per cent would be happy to not return to an office at all and work entirely remotely, while the majority (72 per cent) who can work remotely say they prefer a mixture of in-person and remote working.

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How knowledge workers were impacted

Research from Roy Morgan also pointed to a significant gap in working trends between white collar “knowledge workers” – those whose job requires them to think for a living – and workers in other sectors. For example, 58 per cent of workers in finance and insurance, 51 per cent in public administration and defence and 47 per cent of those working in communications were working from home in April and May of last year, compared to 16 per cent in manufacturing, 15 per cent in transport and storage, 13 per cent in agriculture and just 12 per cent in retail.

Considering the circumstances, George Shinkle, Associate Professor in the School of Management and Governance at UNSW Business School, says organisations did amazingly well in this disruptive transition. “The absolute requirement to change removed many traditional roadblocks for managers and employees even, as many had to learn new digital technology skills. Most reports indicate that managers of knowledge workers reduced oversight (control) and allowed more discretion,” he says.

“However, that is not to say that all managers stopped counting key stokes or active time on workstations, but the social concern for general wellbeing of people shifted thinking away from control toward discretion, trust, and social cohesion for many, but not all, organisations.”

Read more: Six important ways COVID-19 has changed the workplace for good

New rules for managing knowledge workers

Not all managers are happy with the prospect of managing employees in a hybrid working environment. A/Prof. Shinkle observes there is some anecdotal evidence that the COVID environment propelled many traditional micro-managers out of the micromanagement tendency. “The online environment made this slightly more difficult and the higher concern for employee wellbeing shifted managers’ focus,” he says.

Recent research by A/Prof. Shinkle and his colleagues indicates that the amount of rule-based control that maximises performance depends on the degree to which the knowledge workers accept (or are committed to) the organisation’s goals. “Our findings on this were quite surprising,” he says. “Traditional guidance is to have not too many rules or not too few rules – have a moderate level. In Goldilocks’ terms, just the right level. We found that when knowledge workers accepted the organisation’s goals they performed better when the level of formalised rules were low or high and the lowest performance was at a moderate level of rule-based control.”

The reason for this is that a low level of rule-based control allows for discretion, and when the knowledge worker accepts the organisation’s goals then they place creative effort on activity that helps the organisation. “At a medium level, rules constrain autonomy and are demotivating. Surprisingly, on the other side, when rule-based control is high, knowledge workers tend to view the rules as enabling them to achieve the desired outcomes of the goals,” says A/Prof. Shinkle, who explains that this is because organisations with high levels of rule-based controls typically develop the rules based on relevant past experience that is accepted by knowledge workers (such as stage-gate program management procedures).

Striking the best balance

Interestingly, when knowledge workers exhibited low goal acceptance, A/Prof. Shinkle says a moderate level of rule-based control worked best. The research indicates the importance of understanding the degree to which knowledge workers accept the organisation’s goals before designing rule-based control systems.

Read more: How COVID-19 has reshaped manager attitudes about working from home

“Further, accepted goals drive intrinsic motivation which is generally more performance-enhancing than extrinsic control. Managers seem to understand this as we observed managers explaining the reason for and importance level of each goal as a means to build higher acceptance of specific goals,” says A/Prof. Shinkle.

Importantly, this suggests organisations with high levels of knowledge workers should consider low levels of rule-based controls and work in order to create higher levels of goal acceptance and commitment. “One way to build goal commitment with knowledge workers is to clarify the organisation’s fundamental purpose especially regarding connections to and caring for others – social benefits of a larger purpose. Relevant to our dynamic business environment, such an approach will enhance agility and resilience to respond to ongoing changes,” says A/Prof. Shinkle.

Addressing engagement and productivity

One of the most common concerns managers have about employees working out of the office is the potential for reduced engagement and productivity. However, as A/Prof. Shinkle noted, concerns most managers held regarding employee productivity and remote working were debunked by the pandemic.

“For example, people can go from meeting to meeting in the blink of an eye if the meetings are online,” says A/Prof. Shinkle. “One manager told me that his team members were working during the time they would normally be commuting to the office, so productivity actually increased significantly. Another manager at a big bank indicated that they observed an initial drop in productivity at the beginning of the working from home transition – but quickly returned to normal levels, and in some cases are now exceeding past expectations.”

There are also important generational and hierarchical factors at play here. A/Prof. Shinkle recounts how an executive told him that the online environment was very familiar to younger employees and less so to older employees. “This is important as it created an interesting dynamic. Traditionally, high-level executives would have physical meetings to coordinate various geographic regional centre activity,” he says.

In the online environment, A/Prof. Shinkle says such discussions do not need to be constrained to high-level executives, and now younger, lower-level employees are much more involved and interacting across the organisation’s regions. “This results in higher employee engagement and employee development,” he says.

Read more: Digital nomads: five key insights into the future of knowledge work

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Motivating knowledge workers in an online world

With Gartner predicting 51 per cent of all global knowledge workers will be working remotely by the end of the year, A/Prof. Shinkle said it is important that organisations and managers adapt to this shift and learn how to manage and engage knowledge workers in this new environment. “The research evidence on motivation is quite clear that knowledge workers are more motivated and thus productive when they have perceptions of autonomy, competence, and relatedness – also referred to as autonomy, mastery, and purpose,” he says.

When times are difficult, A/Prof. Shinkle observed managers tend to over-control with rigid processes and this demotivates employees, especially knowledge workers. Yet, a broad array of research evidence indicates it is better to combine some firm boundaries alongside processes that provide flexibility. More specifically, he recommends a three-step process for managers:

1. Put up wide guardrails and allow improvisation to enhance perceptions of autonomy
2. Provide positive feedback and opportunities for employees to build competence in new areas
3. Explain and discuss the organisation’s goals and fundamental purpose especially regarding connections to and caring for others.

An important part of the process is making performance measures and targets clear. While the online environment removes many social cues and interactions which promote social cohesion and understanding of the organisation’s desires, A/Prof. Shinkle says prudent managers in distributed ways of working invest more time in establishing and communicating performance targets.

Another important consideration for managers in motivating knowledge workers is keeping them connected and aligned with co-workers, clients and suppliers, says A/Prof. Shinkle. “Many organisations recognised the potential of using the online environment to establish regular check-ins to keep teams engaged and aligned. Once organisations got used to this new way of working, they have now become ‘relatively proficient’ in the new medium,” he says.

Dr George Shinkle is an Associate Professor in the School of Management and Governance, UNSW Business School. His research investigates strategic goal setting, strategic agility, strategy development and strategy implementation – particularly in turbulent environments. For more information please email Associate Professor Shinkle.

How NFTs could change customer loyalty completely 960 How NFTs could change customer loyalty completely Wed, 01 Dec 2021 09:52:00 +0000 Steven Van Belleghem I’ve been thinking about NFTs a lot these days, because – though they still very much reside in a hype phase – they seem to be holding so much potential. I truly believe that the day will come that they will move beyond the collectibles phase and deeply change the game in customer loyalty. Let me explain.

What on earth is an NFT?

But first, for those who don’t know what an NFT or non-fungible token is, it’s a record on a cryptocurrency’s blockchain that represents a piece of digital media. Non-fungible means that it is a unique digital piece and that it cannot be replaced with something else. To borrow an analogy from Verge: “a bitcoin is fungible — trade one for another bitcoin, and you’ll have exactly the same thing. A one-of-a-kind trading card, however, is non-fungible. If you traded it for a different card, you’d have something completely different.” But basically, anything digital could be turned into a unique NFT: a drawing, music, a video of an unlikely goal in football, a tweet, meme, etc.

The hype around the NFTs really took off when the tech was used to sell digital art. People really started to notice the phenomenon with the sale of Beeple’s – aka Mike Winkelmann – digital piece of art “EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS” for no less than $69,346,250. And then there was of course Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and Square, who sold his first tweet “just setting up my twttr” as an NFT for over $2.9 million.

Though many people were still suspicious of the hype (a lot of people tend to be when it comes to all things blockchain), established brands like Coca-Cola, Taco Bell, Quartz and celebrities like William Shatner, Grimes or Steve Aoki all jumped on the bandwagon. Remember the virtual Coca-Cola jacket that was sold for $575,000? And William Shatner’s 10,000 packs of trading cards – about 125,000 digital collectibles with images from personal life and career from the 1930s to today – which sold out in nine minutes? Or TIME launching its TIMEPieces, a collection of more than 4,500 original NFTS from over 40 artists around the world?

Anything to do with digital loyalty, engagement and collectibles were experimented with as NFTs. According to DappRadar, a market tracker, they generated almost $11bn in sales, from June to September, an eight-fold increase on the previous four months. And yet, knowing that only 250.000 people use it in a world of close to 8 billion inhabitants, this is still mostly a niche market. It’s even too soon to be talking about early adopters. These are the innovators of the innovators.

Changing the game of customer loyalty

What is happening now is still mostly gimmick, but I have a strong hunch that NFTs hold the promise to move beyond the current ‘exciting’ collectibles phase and deeply change the game in customer loyalty. That’s because they can offer smart contracts, which could play an important role in boosting customer engagement. And we are seeing quite a few early warning signs of that. Kings of Leon, for instance, were the first band to release an album as an NFT and their tokens – also including 18 unique-looking “golden tickets” – unlock special perks like limited-edition vinyl and front row seats to future concerts.

It should not come as a surprise that marketing and digital guru Gary Vaynerchuck is also heavily experimenting with these types of smart contracts. His VeeFriends collection is comprised of more than 10K character nonfungible tokens – drawings from his own hand of animals that represent characteristics that he really believes in – which include a “smart contract” with metadata that Vaynerchuk can use to interact with its buyer. Token holders will for instance be given exclusive access to an annual business event called VeeCon for three years after the NFT’s purchase and depending on the type of token will receive perks like a one on one conversation with Gary V himself.

What makes an NFT successful?

So what are exactly the ingredients of a successful NFT that offers both value for the customer as well as the seller:

  1. Scarcity: NFTs work best with a limited capacity, preferably if they are unique. There is only one first tweet ever by Jack Dorsey. There is only one original Nyan Cat meme. There is only one World Wide Web source code.
  2. Smart contract: as this type of contract, NFTs can represent and offer access to unique value. Like access to front row seats at a Kings of Leon concert or events by TIME Magazine.
  3. Community: you won’t be able to sell your unique content or contracts if nobody wants them. So NFTs work best when they are presented to a large and loyal existing fan community. That’s the reason why they are so popular in strong fan communities in the music, sports, film industries etc., often fuelled by famous personalities: Paris Hilton, Snoop Dogg, Ellen Degeneres, Eminem, skateboarder Tony Hawk, footballers Diego Costa and James Rodriguez and even Martha Stewart. And why we’ve seen early adoption signs in the media with, Quartz, Time Magazine, Fox entertainment, The New York Times, CNN, Vogue Singapore or even Playboy.

Branded economies could change customer loyalty forever

But the most interesting potential of NFTs truly lies in the concept of branded economies, which could trigger a true paradigm shift in customer loyalty. Allow me to explain. Most current loyalty systems are completely out of balance: more benefits go to the company than to the customer. For instance: frequent flyer programs allow gold and platinum customers to enter a bit faster on the plane or maybe, if they’re lucky, wait in a special lounge. But the bulk of the (financial) value goes to the air company.

NFTs on the other hand, will involve the customers a lot more, who will then become part of the journey. If I, as a frequent flyer, would have an NFT stake in a company, we will both have a shared interest instead of opposed ones. In other words: if the company does well, the value of the NFT will rise and then I will do well too. If they win, I win. If they lose, I do too. And so I, as a customer, will benefit when the brand performs better and will therefore become its ambassador.

That’s why it’s an economy, because the customer becomes an active part of the exchange, instead of a passive one. If NFTs work out, sellers and buyers will be on the same side of the economy, working together to make the company better. It’s almost as if the customer is a shareholder, but an emotional one. This might even have repercussions on the sustainability efforts of companies: customers won’t want any assets in destructive companies and will root for them if they are working towards building a better future together.

The NFT game is still very, very early days, and will definitely evolve a lot before it becomes a truly useful part of the economy. Who knows, maybe it will even change its name. But I also believe that this holds the same potential as the rise of the internet in 1995. For the first time in history, we can now own unique digital assets, which creates a lot of possibilities that we probably don’t understand at this moment. Just like we did not understand Steve Jobs explaining to us that the iPhone would be our ‘life in our pocket’ or Bill Gates dreaming that we would have a computer on every desk and in every home. But this might have the same type of impact on the internet by 2030 as mobile technology had before. Keep an eye on NFTs, I’d say. Things might get really interesting.

Read the riginal article here

The new frontier in leadership: Will the regenerative leaders please stand up 960 The new frontier in leadership: Will the regenerative leaders please stand up Thu, 25 Nov 2021 12:32:00 +0000 Leen Gorissen "By my own definition, I am a plunderer of the Earth and a legal thief. Some day people like me maybe put in jail" speaks Ray Anderson to a room full of CEOs. With this short quote, Ray Anderson, the CEO of Interface, a multinational carpet tile manufacturer, highlights the major root causes of the current crises eloquently: companies have been regarding the planet as a giant resource provider and waste dump, exploiting her to the brim and unleashing massive amounts of pollutants in the air, soil and water with no regard whatsoever that the earth is a living system where everything is connected and where the health of the subsystem (you) is directly related to the health of the whole (biosphere - The film Dark waters illustrates this brilliantly).

When Anderson realized that his business was part of the problem, he set the company on an extraordinary and ambitious quest to eliminate all negative impact by 2020. And while the rest of the industry looked on with skepticism, Interface did just that. They cut back greenhouse emissions and waste with almost 100% showing the rest of the business world that it is not only possible, it is also good for business. And now that they achieved their goal, they developed a new mission that goes even further: they want to become a company that creates a climate fit for life by shifting the focus from doing less bad (reducing negative impact) to doing good (creating positive impact).

What sets Ray‘s leadership style apart from the still dominant ‘no can do’ leadership style when it comes to doing business in a way that is not harmful to the environment and climate is that it is underpinned by

  • the belief that business-as-usual is not the only way.
  • the understanding that environmental impact and internal innovation culture are very much linked.
  • and by a deep trust in the collective intelligence of the workforce.

Moreover, Ray’s leadership shows unprecedented courage as he not only publicly acknowledged the company’s responsibility in creating the conditions for decline and deterioration on our planet, he also had the guts to embark on a challenging transformation journey. A journey that involved his shareholders, employees, supply chain actors and customers. And biologists of course, because many of the strategies that helped Interface achieve its goals were inspired by nature. This story of business transformation is unparalleled so it is no wonder it caught the attention of film makers who visualized the remarkable story in the movie BeyondZero which won several awards.

Unfortunately, this type of leadership is still scarce in the world of business. The bottom-line is still the predominant adagio. “It is just not possible to do business in a way that is good for the climate and environment” is still the belief system of many business leaders. But as the example above shows, the question is no longer “can it be done?”. The real question is, can we find the will and guts to do it? And that is exactly where today’s leadership runs short.

If you look at the state of the world, where not only tech is having exponential impacts, the climate extremes are also growing exponentially (just think of the extreme flooding in Belgium and Germany this year), it becomes clear that we need a new model of corporate leadership. One that is fit to address the huge challenges before us, that knows how to navigate increased complexity, volatility and ambiguity and one that is empowered by extraordinary will and courage to keep going even if the going gets tough. To move forward, leaders will need to acquire a deep understanding of how life works because the machine logic of the Industrial Age is not suited to understand what is happening and why. It is simply impossible to solve the problems of today with the same thinking that created them. Earth is not a machine (non-linearity rules), there is no away (eco-toxicity reduces the health, vitality and viability of all living things) and nothing exists in isolation from all the rest (you can have all the wealth of the world but that will not help you on a dying planet).

On the contrary, planet Earth is a living system that abides to other rules than those promoted in the industrial world. Living systems are interconnected, relational and ever-evolving (ever-changing). The fundamental rule for long term success in an ever-changing world is to leave the planet better off than before. The more we understand the dynamics of living systems, the better we will become in identifying patterns and trends, in understanding systemic shocks and the root causes of crises and turbulence. The more we apprehend how life works, the better we will be able to anticipate change, identify the nodes for intervention and our role in the transformation process. Because, unknowingly, we have created ‘the perfect conditions’ for degeneration ­—a process of decline and deterioration. Degeneration decreases health, quality of life, species richness, and ability to survive.

Now, that we finally understand how life works - for the life that prevails over millions of years of change and disruption is the life that creates conditions conducive to life - we can knowingly create the ‘right enabling conditions’ for regeneration. Regeneration is the process of renewal that leads to a higher order of health, wealth, vitality and viability. To leave the planet better than we found her, just like the survival champions in nature have been doing for millions of years. Because, if it is not regenerative, it is terminal. While old school leadership multiplied and promoted processes of degeneration, a new leadership style can do the opposite. Regenerative leadership comes from a deep sense of responsibility and a ‘yes we can’ attitude. It is fueled by hope, not fear. It is not coming from a place of alienation but from a place of trust and love, not from a place of scarcity but from a place of abundance, not from a place of human exceptionalism (Anthropocentrism: humans on top) but from a place of interbeing (Biocentrism: humans as part of nature). It is powered by a resolute will to become the change we want to see and grounded in the quality of leadership consciousness that understands how life works (not just systems but livingsystems thinking) from a big history perspective (multi-generational).

Like Hutchins & Stormeloquently illustrate in their book: regenerative leaders replace the outdated organisations-as-machine logic with a living systems worldview. Leading organisations-as-living-systems is the only way that ensures ingenuity, adaptability and agility in a world that is constantly changing. Because volatility, chaos and turbulence sure are on the rise. And current leadership models are inadequate to lead organisations through such troubled waters. Especially because they come from a place where the future is something that happens, not something that is created. This is what sets regenerative leaders apart from the others: they see their role and acknowledge their responsibility in the unfolding of the future, and they are bold enough to take a stance. Can the regenerative leaders please stand up?

The Guide to the Ecosystem Economy (Chapter 6) 960 The Guide to the Ecosystem Economy (Chapter 6) Tue, 23 Nov 2021 11:08:00 +0000 Rik Vera Order The Guide to the Ecosystem Economy:

Love is a verb: 5 things you need for a healthy customer relationship 960 Love is a verb: 5 things you need for a healthy customer relationship Thu, 18 Nov 2021 13:28:00 +0000 Ken Hughes Coming out of the pandemic, there are key aspects to all of our relationships we value more than we did 18-months ago – connection, authenticity, honesty, transparency and vulnerability to name a few. Relationship with self, our partners, family and friends were all put under new pressures, and as we emerge into this post-pandemic reality, the importance of relationship is clear to most.

In business, Relationship Marketing was heralded as a unique and new philosophy in the 1980s, moving away from the Transactional to a Relational model. It was the beginning of CRM systems and philosophies. But despite significant technological advances, most CX interactions remain very transactional.

We throw around words like Customer Lifetime Value, Customer Loyalty, and Brand Tribal Belonging and somehow hope that these will come about without significant investment in relationship. Just as in our personal relationships in life, if we want our relationship with our customers to last, we have to put in the work. There is no point in talking about customer lifetime value if we are not committed to putting in the work.

Loved and Lost

Think about any unrequited love experience you had in your past. Maybe you have to go back to your teenage years or maybe it is more recent. When I was 20, I fell for a beautiful Swedish girl named Pia, who had arrived to study at my university for a year. She had a boyfriend back home but I pursued her all that year regardless (to predictably fail). The relationship was wholly unbalanced, unhealthy and one-sided, fraught with self-imposed pain for me. Boyfriend with all of the duties but none of the benefits!

Reproduced with permission from Pia, because we both look young and would like to pretend we still are.

We have all had those moments. Try and remember the heartache of liking/loving someone but not having that reciprocated, the pain, the sense of hopelessness. Well, we do that to our customers every time we don’t show them the love and belonging they deserve. We talk about wanting to build brand loyalty but offer new customers a better deal than existing ones (and we justify that by using fancy words like ‘customer acquisition strategy’).

Form a Relationship

Our customers deserve more. If we are to truly deliver on our CX promises, we need to learn how to build better customer relationships, and to do that we should borrow from personal relationship theory. Anyone who follows Positive Psychology podcasts or articles will probably be up to speed with the aspects that are essential to form healthy, deep human relationships.

Think about the most important person in your life from a personal relationship perspective – your life partner, the person you’re dating right now, a family member, friend or your children – it doesn’t matter. Just hold that relationship in your mind throughout reading this. If we can make sense of our personal relationships, understand why certain things are important, we can certainly bring those same skills to our CX work too.

This blog is the first in a three-part series exploring the nature of relationship. In this, part one, we will explore the first five (of ten) attributes that are key to healthy, deep nurturing relationships. Part two will explore the other five, while part three will outline the love languages we can use in CX to bring these attributes to life along a customer journey.

So, let’s get straight into it (he says after waffling on about his unrequited teen crushes!). First up >

1.Love & Commitment

Who wants to be in a loveless relationship without commitment? Nobody, that’s who. So why do we expect our customers to show us ‘loyalty’ if we are not showing love and commitment to them? Personal relationships work when we give them ‘maximum effort’ but when we test our many points along a customer journey, we often find we are just delivering ‘basic levels of service’ and certainly not ‘maximum effort’. We are turning up to date night dressed in our sweat pants.

Are You Committed?

Commitment is also about planning a future together – that’s what it means when you slip a ring on someone’s finger or ask them to be your life partner. You are asking them to plan a future with you. We want that commitment from our customers but how do we plan that future with them, a mutual benefit future (not one that we just benefit from their business).

US based grocery chain Trader Joe’s does not do home delivery. Even through the pandemic they did not alter this, it just is not part of their business model. But when an 89-year-old veteran was trapped in his home during one snowy Pennsylvanian winter, his daughter ringing around frantically trying to get someone to deliver food to him, they stepped up. Not only did they deliver when she called his local store looking for help, they wouldn’t take any money for the groceries provided either. They showed their love and commitment for a customer through action.

So, how are we showing our customers that we are genuinely in this for the long haul and not just their next transaction? Relationships fail all the time because the commitment one person was hoping for never materialised or they fail to communicate or show love. Remember, love is a verb. And let’s stop using words like ‘customer acquisition’ and ‘customer retention’. That’s like writing a Tinder profile that says ‘I’d like to take you back to my place and lock you in a cage in my basement’ – not sure you’d have many takers.  Let’s hope that the love and commitment we show our customers is why they chose us, and we don’t have to acquire or retain them.

2. Quality Time Together

Imagine you’re out for dinner and your date keeps checking and typing on their phone at the table all evening, how you would feel? When someone doesn’t give you their full attention you do not feel loved. In fact, screentime is often a major issue in modern relationships, in the bedroom and on the couch – couples together but not together, something that reached critical levels for many during the work-from-home switchover in the past 18-months.

Don’t Waste My Time

We value our time. We pay extra to buy that Fastpass ticket at the theme park to avoid spending one hour in the queue for every ride. We buy priority boarding on the plane to ensure we spend less time hanging around in the airport (unless you are flying with Europe’s low-cost carrier Ryanair, where priority boarding gets you earlier access to the next queue in the industrial airport stairwell!). The point here is we value time. It is a precious thing, once gone never to be recaptured. Showing our partner we have time for them, making time for them, spending time with them – these are all the actions of a healthy relationship.

Recently I had issues with the corporate credit card. I needed to contact the AIB call centre as their authentication app was glitching and directing me to the call centre. After 51 minutes on hold, the agent informed me that the issue was on their side, and that I would just have to keep trying and call back every few days until it was resolved on their end. They were asking a customer to give up significant time every day to resolve an issue that was their fault. This is not what you expect from a CX interaction and no way to build a relationship.

So, challenge yourself on the time you are giving to your customer. Don’t just wait to reach out to them at conflict or renewal/upsell points in the customer journey.  Make the time to show them you care. Identify any points along the customer journey you can save them time, through digital convenience or better processes.

3. Intimacy

Now I know where you have all gone in your heads when you read that word. Yes, I want to grow my brand, but I am not getting naked with my customers! Calm down, you don’t have to get it on with anyone (unless of course it’s a very profitable B2B account, then …)

Beyond Physical Intimacy

Physical intimacy is, of course, really important in personal relationships (something sheltering-in-place proved to many). Touch, massage, kissing, and sex are all ways we show those in our lives we love them. But there are other types of intimacy also, namely emotional, mental and spiritual.

Emotional intimacy is all about affirming, caring and being interested in each other’s feelings. In a customer relationship, that is about showing empathy and compassion with your customer, caring about their situation, showing them they are valued by affirming their emotions.

Mental intimacy in personal relationships is about having meaningful conversation, shared values and interests.   It is about finding a partner with intellectual common ground and interests. The same is true in CX – in our customer interactions we need to be genuine, authentic and meaningful.

Lastly Spiritual intimacy is about having respect for each other’s beliefs (whatever they may be), having a shared purpose and nurturing inner peace. Showing your customer respect for whatever they believe to be true is important. Validate their feelings if you are dealing with a conflict moment, and try and find a shared purpose, common ground. That is how you lay down the foundations of customer lifetime value.

Kerry Drake was travelling from his home in San Francisco to Texas, connecting via Houston to get to the bedside of his dying mother. He had got the dreaded call that day and was racing to her bedside. It was a tight 40-minute connection in Houston but he had to take the risk. As it happens, his outbound San Francisco flight was delayed and he was visibly upset on board. The cabin crew, on learning why, had the pilot radio ahead and they held his next plane at the gate ensuring he made his connection. In aviation, every minute counts and costs, but in this example, the brand showed they cared about their passengers feelings, and showed it through their actions.

Remember, intimacy is about fostering a sense of closeness. So, ask yourself, what are you doing to in your CX interactions and strategy that might deliver that ‘sense of closeness’.

4. Fidelity, Trust & Honesty

Relationships tend to fracture when you can no longer trust your partner. Trust takes time to build but can be lost all too quickly. This is one of my all-time favourite trust videos. Watch the video below before reading on.

I imagine this is as cringey to watch on video as it was to be there on that day, but we do this to our customers every day. We tell them we ‘have them’ then we ‘drop them’. We are less than honest with them. We cheat them.

Every year your insurance company sends you a renewal quote. You ring around, get a better quote from a competitor and then they match it. You catch them out at their inflated premium. Your utility or broadband company that has you on a higher package although they can see based on your usage that you would be more suited to a cheaper offer. Your bank charging you maintenance fees on a dormant account you’ve forgotten about. All examples of a brands not being trustworthy with their customers.

I once tried to pay for a made-to-order smoothie in a small café near Bondi beach in Sydney. It turned out Jenny’s Café only took cash; my card was useless. I was already drinking the smoothie while trying to pay so was out of options. There were no ATM machines nearby and I rarely carry cash when travelling.  She told me I could simply pay the next time I was passing. I laughed, explaining I was only in town for one speech and gone back to Ireland the next day. She smiled and said that I could pay the next time I was in town. And so yes, about a year later when I was back in Sydney for a show, I made it my business to go back and pay. She thought it was hilarious, but I had been trusted. Every time I travel to Sydney now, I make it my business to buy a smoothie from that café. It’s a tradition. Trust builds relationships.

5. Effective Communication

A healthy personal relationship relies on good communication skills. You might get away with it for a while, but ultimately no relationship can survive where the parties are not able to communicate.

For years we have been communicating AT customers. Those days are over, shouting at them with a megaphone, hoping that someone will hear us. Brands are still doing it on social media, spraying the channels with irrelevant branded sponsored content. We need to move to a conversational model, a two-way philosophy.

Learn to Listen

Also, communication is not really about what you say, but about your role in active listening. In relationship, at some point many of us learn the difference between listening (being quiet and hearing words) and active listening (hearing what they are saying, empathising, not getting defensive, and thinking about what you can do to make a difference). There is a huge difference and it is a skill that takes time to develop. In CX, we need to think about how we communicate at every point along the customer journey, how authentic those communications are, and how the customer may feel.

Of course, sometimes brand communications can backfire, like this motivational Monday quote from Amtrak California.

And staying with trains, brands can also have some fun through active listening with customers. I love the idea of the Virgin Tweet resource, whoever they were and located who knows where, calling a train to deliver toilet roll to a passenger.

So, ask yourself are you really listening to what your customers are saying and are your communications a two-way street? Genuine communication (that isn’t just upsell) makes a customer feel connected, seen, heard and valued.

o those are the first five attributes of healthy relationships. There are another five to cover (part II), plus a discussion on love languages (part III). It’s a trilogy, get yourself some popcorn. But for now, you have enough to be going on with in the five above.

Take your customer journey and look for moments where you can activate one of these five things to deepen your customer relationships, to better connect. You don’t have to activate them all, at all points, at all times. Find the point they make most sense.

And once you have done that, look inwards. Do you remember I asked you to hold a personal relationship in your mind throughout this? Well, this week, tell them you love them, do something to show how committed you are to the relationship and to them, spend more time with them, go out of your way to create moments of intimacy and closeness this week, tell them you appreciate the trust you have together and actively listen when they come to you with issues.

Love is a verb. You have to do something to truly let your partner know they matter to you. What’s good for better CX connections is also good for you.

This blog is an extract from Ken Hughes’ brand new ‘LOVE IS A VERB’ keynote speech.

Ken Hughes is now considered one of the World’s leading speakers on the subject of consumer values, organizational change, leadership and agility. His virtual and live in-person keynotes are famous for their high-energy, thought provoking content as well as their impactful and inspiring delivery.

Click here to book this inspiring keynote for your next physical, virtual or hybrid event.

The original article appeared on Ken Hughes's website, you can read it here.

The 'S' in ESG and what it truly means for corporate sustainability 960 The 'S' in ESG and what it truly means for corporate sustainability Mon, 15 Nov 2021 12:29:00 +0000 ​BusinessThink Creative Commons What Most Leaders Get Wrong About Culture 960 What Most Leaders Get Wrong About Culture Mon, 08 Nov 2021 12:07:00 +0000 Guest contributor David Burkus “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

And maybe accounting and legal for lunch. I’ve never actually heard anyone try and complete that quote. And I’ve never really figured out why any leader would want strategy masticated by anything. Let alone culture.

But the idea behind the quote is that culture is paramount. The success or failure of an organization or team depends upon its culture—the norms and behaviors around how employees communicate and collaborate.

Most leaders agree that culture is hugely important. But that seems to be where the agreement stops. Many leaders disagree over exactly what culture is, why it is so important, or even what a healthy organizational culture looks like.

In this article, we’ll cover three assumptions most leaders get wrong about culture.

Culture Is Unique

The first assumption leaders get wrong about culture is that their culture is unique. Most leaders describe how unique and special their culture is and then proceed to tell you about how great the people are, or how supportive of each other the teams are, or how great the benefits are. See where this is going? Most positive company cultures aren’t actually all that unique. While toxic company cultures could be toxic for a variety of reasons, healthy company cultures have a LOT in common.

And that’s good news. The lack of uniqueness means that building a strong company culture requires merely following the pattern. It means that leaders put a unique spin on a trusted model of healthy culture. The research suggests that the model looks like this: most healthy cultures are marked by common understanding, psychological safety, and prosocial purpose. They may use different terms and may use different stories to highlight those elements. But few organizations build thriving cultures without teams that understand and collaborate well through psychological safety toward the purpose of helping others.

Don’t try to reinvent a new company culture; reinvent how you’re applying those fundamentals.

Culture Is About Artifacts

The second assumption leaders get wrong about culture is that it’s about artifacts. Ask what many leaders are doing to build culture and they’ll describe things that can be easily seen. They’ll talk about the foosball table or the quarterly celebrations. They’ll point to the mural of core values that they commissioned a local graffiti artist to put in the lobby. But researchers on organizational culture point out that these “artifacts” just scratch the surface, and that underneath what you can see lie a set of espoused values and shared basic assumptions. Those values and basic assumptions matter a lot more when we’re building and shaping a culture.

Consider the tech company famous for their culture and often described using merely artifacts: Google. For most of its history, Google has been known for the cultural artifact of having free food readily available to any employee of the company—and chef quality free food too. But just providing free food won’t create a Google-like company culture. Because underneath Google’s policy is the idea that people from diverse departments connect and trade ideas around food—it's why you’d be hard pressed to find a table at Google with only one or two chairs. The food serves to implement the value of collaboration and the shared assumption that when diverse thinkers trade ideas, the result makes everyone better.

Don’t blindly copy artifacts that sound like they’ll build culture; understand the values to be emphasized and build artifacts that support them.

Culture Is About The Company

The final assumption leaders get wrong about culture is that it’s about the company. After all, it’s most commonly referred to as company culture or organizational culture. And most culture experts and researchers examine culture at the organizational level. But if you think about most people’s experience of work, it’s shaped less by the culture of the entire organization and more by the culture of the team that they’re working on. We often hear the phrase “People don’t quit bad companies, they quit bad bosses.” In other words, the boss they have or the team they’re on influences their feelings about the company much more than a statement of core values or benefits and perks.

A better way to consider culture in organizations is as a set of concentric circles. A companywide culture is like the outer ring and depending on the size of the organization different departments and functions serve as middle rings—with an individual team the innermost ring of the culture. This means that senior leaders not only shape the overall culture, but must also train leaders at all levels to pay attention to how their actions align with or misalign with that culture.

Don’t just declare the elements of your company culture and hope managers fall in line; give managers the means to build a strong yet supportive team culture on their own.

Unless leaders get culture right, not a whole lot else goes right in the organization. And while none of these assumptions will cause a culture to go toxic immediately, misunderstanding what a positive culture looks like and how its built means leaving the eventual culture to chance. By contrast, getting these elements of culture right means building an environment of common understanding, psychological safety, and a prosocial purpose that helps everyone do their best work ever.

This piece was first published on David Burkus’ personal website.

What we can learn from e-commerce “twins” Amazon and Alibaba about CX 960 What we can learn from e-commerce “twins” Amazon and Alibaba about CX Mon, 08 Nov 2021 09:39:00 +0000 Steven Van Belleghem You may have already noticed that Pascal Coppens and I have launched a series of Youtube clips where we compare similar Western and Chinese technology giants.

Now, for those of you who prefer reading to watching, I wanted to give a version of our conversation here on my blog as well. This is the first episode where we “twin” and compare e-commerce giants Amazon with Alibaba, along the lines of my Offer You Can’t Refuse (OYCR) concept. Rather than transcribe the clip, I wanted to zoom in here on what we can learn from both of them in CX. If you want to hear about the challenges they face as well, I highly recommend you watch the clip.

Before we go deeper into the OYCR model, I want to briefly summarize where they differ the most and where they resemble each other the most.

The biggest difference

The biggest difference is probably that Amazon is hugely customer driven, where Alibaba is highly relationship driven. That might seem the same but it really is not. Most of us know that Amazon is deeply customer obsessed and does everything in its power to make the purchase process as well as the lives of customers better. But in their case, this approach unfortunately sometimes comes at the cost of their relationship with employees (how they treat the blue collar workers) and suppliers (issues of trust).

Alibaba, on the other hand, focuses on the entire chain of human relations, empowering and helping their retail partners so that they can offer better services and products to their own customers. In short: Amazon helps customers while Alibaba helps its sellers help their customers. In that aspect, Amazon can be seen as a huge company, while Alibaba is a huge ecosystem. I won’t go deeper into this, but this probably has to do with the Chinese culture that is much more holistic and relationship driven than the individualistic West.

The biggest similarity

The one thing that they have both understood exceedingly well, is that staying within the lines of your core business and industry is a thing of the past. If you want to be a useful part of the lives of your customer, it’s better to diversify your offering into (adjacent) services that can help them save even more time or up the quality of their lives. That’s why Amazon is truly becoming a whole network of organizations and brands in order to have as much influence in the day to day life of people as possible. Over the years, it has for instance entered movie streaming, healthcare, pharmaceutics, grocery shopping, logistics and other sectors.

Alibaba has a similar approach of diversification: they have launched themselves in logistics, in cloud, in healthcare, entertainment and many more industries. What’s extra clever about that, is that all these services are embedded in their Alipay superapp, which is not just a financial service but a social platform as well, connected to millions of merchants around the world. And that is how they get an enormous amount of data, which allows them to give tips and tricks to their ecosystem of merchants to help their customers even better.

Creating an Offer You Can’t Refuse

So, let’s move on how they both create an Offer You Can’t Refuse (OYCR), each in their very own way. Just a little recap for those of you who aren’t familiar with my OYCR concept, here are the three values that are the pillars of that concept (obviously on top of the offering of great products and services at a reasonable price):

  • Transactional or digital convenience,
  • Emotional convenience or Partner in Life,
  • Saving the world.

Digital convenience

Digital convenience first. This is the use of new technology in a smart way to make interfaces ever more automated, so that the customer needs to make no effort to do business with your company. This leads to the perfect transactional relationship.

Since the very beginning, Amazon has had a very strong reputation in digital convenience thanks to its incredible friction hunter mindset. I’m sure you’re familiar with the Amazon go stores, where you scan your phone, walk in and take what you want from the shelves. Thanks to state-of-the-art technology, they removed the friction, the annoying part of shopping from the buyer experience. You would think ‘this is the most perfect digital convenience in the offline world’. Yet, still, someone at Amazon decided that process could be simplified even more. Instead of needing to look for your phone, take it out, open the app and scan it, they added a hand scanning device, making the experience even more frictionless, almost invisible. And you see that in everything they do: they permanently look for these small details and then try to go the extra mile.

According to Pascal, Alibaba, too, is doing great things on the convenience side: the “new retail” being one of them, which is all about merging the online with offline. The Freshippo or Hema stores are really a good example: high-tech supermarkets that are completely designed around the smartphone and function as fulfillment centers for online shopping at the same time (being so close to customers, allows for super fast delivery). Chinese people really love this approach and the stores’ unified ecosystem is also a gold mine from a data point of view for Alibaba, which allows them to continuously monitor and improve the buyer experience.

Partner in Life

This part of the OYCR pillars is about the life journey of your customer, going beyond ‘just’ their customer journey. Which aspects in the lives of your customers create negative or positive energy? What things cost them too much effort? If brands can provide answers to these questions, they can optimize their emotional relationship with their customers.

Amazon takes the partner in life philosophy very seriously. They always keep the scarcest resources of customers in mind when they invent or further refine a new offering: today these mostly are time, money and energy. Jeff Bezos actually did the math: if you buy your products with Amazon, you’re saving 75 hours a year, which is bringing quite a lot of value to the table. But, as a real Partner in Life, they are not content to stay in the single lane of being an online retailer, as mentioned above. They’ve been moving into financial services. They are ready to roll out the once internal healthcare program Amazon Care nationwide and for everyone. So now all the American people can use Amazon care to get online medication and online help. They’re continuously broadening their offering to become that partner in life.

Pascal explained that Alibaba, too, is a partner in life, but – as we talked about – not just for the users, but also for all the retailers on their platform. Even a long time ago, they had products like Aliwangwang and Alimama to help sellers and buyers to connect better with each other. It also assists these smaller players to become better, more efficient and more convenient so they can boost their sales, which is obviously an advantage for Alibaba as well. Their advice to sellers is extremely valuable because they have so many touch points in so many industries that they have an incredible amount of information about the user journey. And let’s not forget about their technology – Alipay or their CRM and ERP systems – that helps the retailers become more efficient.

Save the World

This last pillar of the Offer You Can’t Refuse is about companies taking their responsibility to do good for society as a whole. Every company has strengths that it can use to create a societal added value. Search for concrete solutions and contributions that will allow your company to make a truly tangible impact.

When it comes to sustainability and the impact on environment and society, we all know that e-commerce – especially package delivery – is a big discussion point. But Amazon is really serious about improving itself here. They are investing in more sustainable processes and logistics, and they put the bar up quite high for the next couple of years. An example is that they want to make sure that the largest percentage of their fleet will be EVs. They’re also working on renewable energy. I think they could do more still, because just think about the influence that a company the size of Amazon could have on sustainability. What if they started to push the more sustainable products? It works both ways of course, consumers need to be ready for this, too. Society still has a long way to go in that aspect.

According to Pascal, Alibaba is trying to make a real difference for society and the environment. One part is inclusion: it’s giving all these micro loans through Ant Financial or helping farmers everywhere with e-commerce. Chinese culture is much more network and collective driven and so Alibaba is deeply invested in helping the less fortunate with upward social mobility. It also has CSR programs like the Ant Forest tree-planting mini program in the Alipay app that enables users to earn virtual points for making low-carbon lifestyle choices (like riding a bicycle or taking the bus). And they’ve already planted more than a hundred million trees in China, all because of this one application.

Their logistics, however, will probably have the most impact on ‘saving the world’. Its “Green Logistics 2020” initiative includes the improvement of material recycling, packaging, route planning and delivery methods by leveraging its technological capabilities. It will be launched across a number of business entities within the Alibaba Group, including its logistics arm Cainiao, online retail sites Tmall and Taobao and second-hand platform Xianyu, as well as on-demand food delivery site

These are just the highlights of what Pascal and I talked about, though. If you want to learn more about Amazon’s membership approach, B2B section, employee experience or how Alibaba handles trust, customer service and its struggles with the government, I highly recommend you watch our clip:

Three things I learned at the brainwash festival 960 Three things I learned at the brainwash festival Fri, 05 Nov 2021 13:47:00 +0000 Laurence Van Elegem
  • Change is a complex process. For it to really work, you need to adapt the whole system, not just the one ‘problem’ or node you want to transform.
  • We need to be more positive, in order to give our societies a sense of the future back. For instance, we need to better frame the climate story: giving certain things up, also means gaining other things. It’s like parenting: what you give up in freedom, you gain in love, companionship, safety (as you grow old),....
  • From one to many: we need to become more inclusive, more collaborative, more ‘polyphonic’ in our thinking - call it poly-cognition - if we want to tackle huge interconnected problems like climate change and polarization.
  • More poly-cognition

    I won’t discuss all of them in depth, but the last point, about polyphony spoke to me the most (I borrow the term from Moroccan-Dutch writer and journalist Abdelkader Benali who talked about (Dutch) “meerstemmigheid’) and so I’ll elaborate a bit on that. The reason why is that I recognized a pattern from other talks I’ve been following. An example is Reon Brand’s talk at the Pioniersafbriek last week where he talked about 4 different co-emerging futures which will co-evolve and impact each other simultaneously to form something that will hold elements from all of them. Though he had a favorite form of future - called Gaia, an eco-centric future, valuing diverse ecosystems - he saw the other 3 (called Etherea, Immortalia and Habitania) as just as impactful.

    Snippet from Reon Brand’s presentation at the Pioniersfabriek

    In a world filled with different options and opinions, it will help us forward not to view one of them as right and the others as wrong. It’s about seeing and accepting that different voices want different things and speak different languages but that that is ok. It’s “and” thinking, not “or” thinking.

    It’s about reframing what we see as “not right” (with a value attached to it) as just “other”.

    Abdelkader Benali illustrated his point about polyphony with the identity crisis he faced as a young child when his teacher told him that a banana was called a “banaan” (Dutch) while his family said it was a “platano” (Moroccan). For each of them, it was one thing, not both. Growing up, he came to the conclusion that both were right and that both parties needed to respect that.

    But for me, this concept of polyphony goes beyond cultural diversity.

    Dutch historian and author Rutger Bregman told us that the most successful movement are often coalitions of people who have very different backgrounds and opinions, but strive for the same goal. The abolitionist movement is a beautiful example of that. A bad one is climate change, which has come to be seen as a left wing issue, when it’s relevant for all and should be tackled by all.

    Decoupling the problem from the solution

    That’s why he advocated that we need to learn to decouple the problem (like climate change) from the solution (electric energy, solar power, nuclear energy…) and strive towards a common goal (with multiple solutions side by side).

    We need more poly-cognition (not sure if that’s a word but I was inspired by the concept of polyphony), more Janusian thinking (being able to envision an idea as well as its opposite), more holism if we want to be able to tackle the huge societal and environmental challenges we are currently facing. One track thinking and solutions do not work in a complex interconnected environment. What we need are different views and voices working together with multiple solutions at the same time.

    That’s why I was a bit surprised at cognitive psychologist, psycholinguist and popular science author Steven Pinker (who I immensely respect) who pleaded for more rational thinking as the be-all and end-all solution, because it “leads to better choices in our lives and in the public sphere, and is the ultimate driver of social justice and moral progress”.

    (Slighly blurry) picture of the talk with Steven Pinker, Philipp Blom, Roanne Van Voorst & Rutger Bregman

    Emotions AND rationality

    We live in highly emotional times, partly caused by algorithms that are biased towards radical feeling like anger or shock. I really don’t think that this type of opposite thinking – counter disinformation and radical emotions with pure rationality – works in a system that is already highly polarized. I think acceptance might play a more important role: accepting that humans are highly emotional and see how we can work with that TOGETHER with rational thinking.

    So, not (radical) emotions OR rationality. But both.

    Take anger, which was the topic of economist and co-author of Angrynomics Eric Lonergan’s talk about angrynomics. Traditionally we see this as a negative emotion, but that depends on which type, according to Lonergan. Moral outrage is what can regulate society, in response to injustice and wrongdoing. It’s the type of anger that drives Greta Thunberg. Tribal anger, on the other hand, can often be more destructive: it’s for instance what drives hooligans.

    So rather than ‘fight’ anger with rationality, let’s try to accept it more, try to find out what drives it and work with it.

    Sometimes it is better not to choose and leave what’s “right” in the middle. It might be the most effective way to find common ground and form a powerful coalition of dissenting voices that are working towards tackling common goals like working on the climate problem. Choosing often does means loosing.

    In fact, I don’t think Steven Pinker was not right (gotta stay consistent with my own point, right?). He’s a highly intelligent person, making a lot of good points, some of which I liked more than others. So did I learn a lot from him? Did his opinion - that was different than mine - broaden my view? It certainly did. Which is why, to conclude, I would also advise you to seek out more dissenting voices and listen to them with an open mind: not with the intent to refute them, but to see if you can find things you do agree with, at heart, or even find things that you hadn’t thought of yourself.

    Tools Catalysts Need to Thrive 960 Tools Catalysts Need to Thrive Thu, 04 Nov 2021 12:12:00 +0000 Guest Contributors Shannon Lucas and Tracey Lovejoy The moment you self identify as a Catalyst can feel like a lightbulb moment, sometimes for a light that we didn’t know had burned out. The first thing many people tell us is how relieved they are—that they always thought they were “crazy,” and how excited they are to finally have words for the way they operate in the world. But despite this lightbulb moment many of us don’t even know if we have the tools to thrive.

    Why is this realization so important? Because as Catalysts, we think and act differently than most. Sometimes those differences are welcomed and celebrated, and other times we’re written off as disruptors or troublemakers.

    Catalysts see interconnected data everywhere we look, and that data often points to potential change that we’re motivated to set in motion—even if the people around us don’t yet see that same vision. Once the early, exciting phase of a project is under control, we tend to get bored and would rather hand off projects to someone else than see them all the way to the more mundane levels of completion.

    For the non-Catalysts among us, we’re sure you can relate to the frustrations of working with someone who seems to jump around or shift the goalposts or start something and “never finish.”

    You’ve probably also felt the positive sides of that interaction as well, when someone seems to work magic as they pull strings and make connections to achieve an extraordinary goal.

    Sometimes it feels like magic to us as Catalysts, too—or at least like a normal way of being.

    • Doesn’t everyone see what I’m seeing?
    • Don’t you all want this better future to happen?
    • I thought we had agreed to turn left—why is everyone going to the right?

    And other times, we feel just as chaotic as we look. That’s why finding out we’re not broken, we’re not crazy, and we’re not alone is such a remarkable experience.

    But once the realization that you’re not broken sinks in, the next questions often start with “how…”

    • How do I share my vision without scaring people away?
    • How do I moderate the pace of change when I didn’t even know it was too fast?
    • How do I build partnerships and bring people along?
    • How does a Catalyst thrive—in the workplace, at home, and in the world?

    Recognizing your Catalyst superpowers (and weaknesses) is only the beginning of the journey. Honing and articulating them is a lifelong process—one that we’re working on together at Catalyst Constellations.

    We believe that by understanding more about how you move so quickly, why you are more willing to break things in service of a better future, and what causes you to burn out with more frequency than your peers.

    Our research shows that Catalysts have an innate process and way of moving through the world, called the Catalyst Formula. It includes three phases —Vision + Action + Iteration—encased in and powered by rejuvenation.

    Our book details this process step by step, like looking under the hood to see what makes a Catalyst go. In our Essentials class, we take it a step further. Over eight weeks, we walk through each component of the formula with small groups of Catalysts as they learn to apply those particular types of strengths in new ways, with stronger intention. Beyond simple analysis, we work alongside each other to develop the necessary catalyst muscles to more effectively create the change we need to see in the world.

    The more familiar we become with the Catalyst Formula, the clearer we see it in motion every day of our lives, the better we can harness it. So let’s unpack a few key tools, one for each aspect of the Catalyst Formula, that can help you thrive as a Catalyst, no matter what kind of change you’re manifesting in the world.

    Learn to Articulate the Vision

    When we talk about Vision with Catalysts, it’s a little bit different than the way the general population thinks of it. This Catalyst superpower is not necessarily about a singular goal or ultimate finish line to drive toward. It’s an entire mode of thinking that we never shut down.

    Our tentacles are always out there, feeling for what seems like limitless possibility. We’re gathering data not just in our literal research, but as we read a room, have conversations, learn more about our organizations, and become inspired by creative works.

    We constantly pull this information in, from all sources, and that’s when the “magic” seems to happen. Our ability to connect the dots makes all of those disparate sources equally informative. The message in a science fiction novel connects to the concern a colleague had which connects to the stats a research team just compiled…and it all points to the solution to the gap in the organization that we’ve been trying to sort out.

    But this happens so naturally and so clearly for us that we often just go after that solution, not realizing we’re the only ones who took that mental journey from point A to point Q all in an instant.

    No matter how clear our visions for a better future are, most of us don’t know how to communicate that vision to anyone else.

    In order to bring people along, we have to be able to show them where we’re going. And often, that must begin before the vision coalesces. In other words, sharing the vision begins with listening first.

    The Listening Tour is a key Catalyst tool for shaping a clear vision that involves the people around you.

    Take a period of time to simply listen and observe. Try to understand the context, challenges, needs, and success criteria of stakeholders across your organization. Be intentional in your conversations—about who those conversations are with and what opportunities or concerns you cover—to gather data to inform your vision. Ask them open ended questions and give them the time and space they need to share an in-depth view of their world. Focus on listening for deep understanding.

    Not only is this a source of data for you as you’re connecting the dots toward that ultimate goal, but it helps the people around you appreciate at least a piece of the process as it unfolds. Taking the time to truly understand your stakeholders’ situation is a great way to start cultivating your vision in a way that invites cooperation. When they see their input in the vision you eventually share, it won’t seem quite so disruptive.

    And, as simple as it sounds, remember to actually say your vision out loud once you come to clarity on it. Over and over and over again.

    It’s common for Catalysts to move forward into action, after barely taking the time to fully form the vision in their minds—what it would look like once complete and who it would impact along the way—much less externalize it.

    Take time early on to meet with someone “safe” (preferably someone who isn’t going to be impacted by the vision) and say it out loud to them. Get a feel for what that’s like. Make the case for it. Let them challenge you. Again, you’ll gain more data, and you’ll have a better idea of how to present it to stakeholders once it’s time.

    Create and Use an Action Map

    There is little on this earth more powerful than a Catalyst who can articulate and externalize their vision. Creating an Action Map is one of the best ways we ensure that vision has a chance to become reality.

    This is one of the more concrete and helpful tools in the Catalyst’s arsenal, and one that we use every time we set out to create something new.

    It’s exactly what it sounds like: a map of actions to be taken on the way to a vision. If you are here—what does your vision look like, when should it come to life, and what key stops are you going to have to make along the way?

    The Action Map is helpful as a visioning tool, asking us to become more specific and clear about what it is we’re driving toward.

    It’s a regrounding tool, asking us to stay focused as we move into action and begin to iterate on our planned steps.

    And if we plot our own personal needs on it as well, it’s a rejuvenation tool, asking us to think of ourselves as whole people and not just vehicles for change.

    The goal of an Action Map is to track your intended path so that the whirlwind of iteration doesn’t take you away from it.

    Once you’ve built an Action Map, keep it front and center. It should become a key tool that you use to prioritize your time and recap your accomplishments, even as you move forward in that non-linear way that most Catalysts are prone to. It can also become a reference point that helps other people know what you’re doing too.

    You might create your Action Map on a spreadsheet, jot it down in a journal, or sketch it out with drawing tools. The actual format of the map isn’t important. What matters is whether you can use it to check in on your vision—updating it as needed, of course—and stay focused on the steps that will get you there. Keep your original Action Map and all subsequent versions to document the journey you’ve been on and the pivots that you’ve made based on input and data that you’ve gained along the way.

    Count the Wins (and Losses)

    In spite of the remarkable levels of change Catalysts are able to create, we don’t often feel successful. We move so quickly past our original (poorly articulated) goals that we forget how far we’ve come to get there.

    That non-linear way of working tracks as constant effort without often registering as success. Yet when we look back on the previous year, we often find ourselves in a completely different place than where we started, with much progress being made, even if sometimes it was just helping the team come to clarity on “What next?”

    This makes celebration another key tool for Catalysts to thrive—not just in the completion of a vision, but in the everyday small stuff.

    When you make an Action Map, you’re not just pointing the compass to the true north of a vision and setting out toward it. You’ve identified clear steps that will have to be taken along the way. Progress along that map is worth celebrating. Appreciate what you’ve accomplished, whether it’s landing that key meeting or clearing out those old files that held important information.

    Similarly, you’re going to hit hard losses—maybe even on steps you were counting on being a win. Those are worth appreciating as well, because even failure is a form of information that can help you move forward. Reframing failure in this way is a key part of the successful Catalyst’s journey.

    The losses can still hurt. You can still feel them and experience the consequences. But you don’t have to get stuck there.

    Articulating the wins and losses, both as they happen and in retrospect, is important not just for you but also for your team or partners. We constantly find ourselves reminding each other to celebrate the small stuff and to look for the win that’s hidden in a loss. We try to toast the easy wins as much as the hard ones, because they’re only easy when they come on the heels of other wins we blew right past.

    Learn to mark those moments that move you forward, even when they feel like a setback. Share the moment with people around you, so that they can learn to reframe failure and celebrate progress as well.

    Over time, you’ll find that small but consistent moments of celebration or acknowledgment will keep others on the journey with you where they might otherwise feel left behind. And even if you’re all alone, they’ll help you create space to breathe for a moment and enjoy the work once more.

    Track Your Energy

    Embedded within each of the other key tools is this quiet reminder that you matter too.

    A vision doesn’t come together as well if you aren’t present in each of your interactions with people and data and inspiration.

    An Action Map isn’t as effective if the things you need as a person aren’t on at least a few stops as well.

    Wins and losses are important for the team, but it’s just as much about your own satisfaction—reminders of how much joy this work actually gives you.

    That’s where the final piece of the formula comes in, even though it’s more like a bubble encasing the whole Catalyst Formula within it. Rejuvenation is the slow burning fuel that makes the Catalyst keep running. Without it, we might burn hot, but we’re going to burn out fast.

    We can become so externally focused on the change, that we forget to think about ourselves. That’s why so many of us hit exhaustion and burnout more deeply and with more frequency than non-Catalysts. The work that once gave us energy begins to take away from everything else that gives us energy, until all it does is take. Eventually, we have nothing left to give.

    To start a practice of rejuvenation, start by simply tracking your energy.

    What’s giving you energy and what’s taking it away?

    Do you see a pattern of energy-draining or sustaining tasks? What about interactions? Is your role still one that brings you life and joy?

    Because rejuvenation encompasses the whole Catalyst Formula, that awareness can affect each of the other tools, too. As you build your vision and map it out, consider what kind of energy you’ll have on the other side and what you’ll need to sustain it along the way. As you prioritize your day or week or month against the Action Map, think about what gives you energy and find a place for it on the map. When you hit a big win, use that energy as fuel to get you through a lower spot around the corner.

    The Thriving Catalyst

    No, these tools aren’t going to solve everything. You’re still going to move too fast, frustrate people and become frustrated, and lose more energy than you gain. You’re most likely going to burn out.

    The difference comes with the level of intention that the tools create.

    • The Listening Tour helps you shape a more well-rounded vision that others can see themselves in, and articulating that vision out loud helps you set off in a more specific and clear direction.
    • The Action Map gives you a guiding star to prioritize by, to hold focus when iteration threatens to carry you away or when the midpoint starts to get tedious and boring.
    • Celebration of wins big and small—and of what you learn from losses—brings energy and satisfaction back into the process of work itself.
    • And when you track your energy, you’ll see even more of what feeds you as a Catalyst or seems to drag you down.

    And that’s really the heart of it all: the tools you need the most are the ones that will help you thrive. You don’t have to fit anyone else’s expectations of what visioning looks like or what should or shouldn’t be energizing. You just need to live up to your own incredible potential, inside and out.

    Because when you know that you’re a Catalyst—not a broken mess…

    When you know you’re tracking toward a specific vision—not just making “magic”…

    When you can see the map of actions that will get you there—holding yourself to your priorities instead of chasing every shiny new adventure…

    When you can look back on your progress and celebrate clear wins and mark important losses—bringing your team along as pivots happen instead of jumping ahead alone…

    When you can track your energy and truly value yourself as a key part of the changemaking process…

    …That’s when you shift from surviving the world as a disruptor to changing it as a powerful, thriving Catalyst.

    This article originally appeared on the blog of our dear friends:

    PODCAST: Radar - by nexxworks November 2021 960 PODCAST: Radar - by nexxworks November 2021 Wed, 03 Nov 2021 09:35:00 +0000 Laurence Van Elegem Before we discuss this podcast episode, some news: we’re really excited to announce that we’ve been shortlisted for the Belgian podcast awards in the Business category, together with some awesome Belgian podcasts. So, if you like our show, we would love it if you could help us win. You can vote here for us, until the 22nd of November. It will take less than 30 seconds, but it really would mean the world to us.

    vote here, thanks so much!

    And now, on to the show! In this episode, Radar podcast host Steven Van Belleghem and his #nexxworks friends Peter Hinssen, Pascal Coppens, Julie Vens - De Vos and Laurence Van Elegem discuss the most exciting tech and business news of the past month: Amazon manipulating search results to push its own brands, Patagonia launching a brand of wines, China's energy crisis, scenario planning and hedge fund Third Point asking Shell to split into multiple companies. We also answered listener questions about ethics, Facebook’s rebranding, Best Buy launching into healthcare, privacy, Solid, the hybrid way of working and the disconnect between employers and employees when it comes to employee exits.

    Hope you enjoy this episode and please be so kind as to share it, rate us or follow our channel, if you like what you hear:

    Prefer to listen on Apple Podcasts? You can do that here.

    The 11 best business books about building a better future from the past year (or so) 960 The 11 best business books about building a better future from the past year (or so) Thu, 28 Oct 2021 11:26:00 +0000 Laurence Van Elegem About 10 years ago, social media empowered customers in ways many companies did not see coming. Technology had changed the customers, and companies were to use technology - the magic word was Big Data at the time – to understand and please them. Back then, a lot of companies underestimated this behavior change. We all know what happened to them.

    Ten years later, I see many companies underestimate the current customer need for “good” products and services. By good, I do not mean that they would be qualitative. That’s just a given. I mean that their offering has to add value to their context (be it individuals, society or the environment) instead of extracting it.

    From “do good to me” to “do good to us”.

    The first market shift in this story was customers telling companies to “do good to me”. The second, current one, is that they demand of them to “do good to us”. And COVID-19 may have been the turning point: it showed us how challenges that are deeply connected, will eventually come back to us, as individuals with their small inner circle. When it came to deadly diseases - for Europeans before COVID-19 - Ebola was an African problem, SARS an Asian one or even AIDS a mostly homosexual one. People felt bad, but sadly also disconnected, not really compelled to help or act. But COVID-19 affected all of us and brutally confronted us with the fact that an Asian problem was an African, American, European and Australian problem. It showed us that “their” health problem was also “ours”. And so, locked down in our homes, with more time to read and hear about climate change induced wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, … we started to realize that “their” climate problem could also one day become “ours”, here, in our own countries and cities.

    That’s a Big change in mindset. Just like we have come to expect businesses to treat us right as consumers for a long time now, we now expect them to treat us right as citizens, as living beings that are firmly embedded in a hyperconnected system (the market, society and the environment).

    Because we realize that if that system loses, we lose. If it thrives, we thrive. Consumers of today want companies to invest in making that system thrive. It may seem like a small movement for now, but it’s growing fast. And your competitors are probably already investing in that trend.

    Don’t make the mistake of thinking that “doing good” is about charity, and costs or even “not doing bad things”. No, this is truly a paradigm shift. It’s about creating business models that add real value to the system, not just to your individual customer and your organization. If you think that’s just a utopian dream from a hippy mind on pot, check Nestlé’s awesome case that Filip Caeldries told Steven Van Belleghem (full interview here):

    I loved Filip’s example of the Nestle milk roads: “When Nestle develops a dairy business in a new country, they need a good road infrastructure as well as local milk which often is of a poorer quality. Now instead of importing high quality milk or relocating when their needs are not met, they change the entire system. They build new roads to bring the milk faster to the factory. They pay the farmers a higher price and offer them low interest loans so they can invest in better stables and so their children don’t need to work but can go to school (schools they have built themselves). They organize veterinary and hygiene programs so the farmers learn to treat their animals better, which results in better quality of milk. So basically what you see here is a private company, upgrading the entire community ecosystem: from farming, distributions, supply chain, schooling, water use and so on. They basically take the whole community to the next level while solving major social problems.”

    But ok, this was supposed to be a simple book list, right? True. So, I compiled the books below because, before you start to investigate how your company could add value (instead of extracting it) to the system, it’s important that you broaden your lens on all the possible shifts that this could entail: from a long term (Krznaric) and regenerative (Hawken) mindset or a systems thinking view (Visser) to new types of leadership (Mackey) or even government (Mazzucato).

    If you’re the lazy kind (like me) or just not that into business books, you’ll find a podcast compilation at the end to accompany you when you’re on the go. Enjoy!

    Curious to join us on a Sustainability Tour?

    The Optimist's Telescope: Thinking Ahead in a Reckless Age - Bina Venkataraman (2019)

    In The Optimist’s Telescope, Bina Venkataraman - journalist and former adviser in the Obama White House - draws from stories she has reported around the world and new research in biology, psychology, and economics to explain how we can make decisions that benefit us over time. With examples from ancient Pompeii to modern-day Fukushima, she dispels the myth that human nature is impossibly reckless and highlights the surprising practices each of us can adopt in our own livesand the ones we must fight for as a society. The result is a book brimming with the ideas and insights all of us need in order to forge a better future.

    Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take - Paul Polman and Andrew Winston (2021)

    Runaway climate change and rampant inequality are ravaging the world and costing a fortune. Who will help lead us to a better future? Business. These massive dual challenges—and other profound shifts, such as pandemics, resource pressures, and shrinking biodiversity—threaten our very existence. Other megatrends, such as the push for a clean economy and the unprecedented focus on diversity and inclusion, offer exciting new opportunities to heal the world, and prosper by doing so. Government cannot do this alone. Business must step up.

    In this seminal book, former Unilever CEO Paul Polman and sustainable business guru Andrew Winston explode fifty years of corporate dogma. They reveal, for the first time, key lessons from Unilever and other pioneering companies around the world about how you can profit by fixing the world's problems instead of creating them. To thrive today and tomorrow, they argue, companies must become "net positive"—giving more to the world than they take.

    Mission Economy: A moonshot guide to changing capitalism - Mariana Mazzucato (2020)

    Taking her inspiration from the ‘moonshot’ programmes which successfully coordinated public and private sectors on a massive scale, Mariana Mazzucato calls for the same level of boldness and experimentation to be applied to the biggest problems of our time.

    Mission Economy looks at the grand challenges facing us in a radically new way, arguing that we must rethink the capacities and role of government within the economy and society, and above all recover a sense of public purpose.

    Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation - Paul Hawken (2021)

    Regeneration offers a visionary new approach to climate change, one that weaves justice, climate, biodiversity, equity, and human dignity into a seamless tapestry of action, policy, and transformation that can end the climate crisis in one generation. It is the first book to describe and define the burgeoning regeneration movement spreading rapidly throughout the world.

    Regeneration describes how an inclusive movement can engage the majority of humanity to save the world from the threat of global warming, with climate solutions that directly serve our children, the poor, and the excluded. This means we must address current human needs, not future existential threats, real as they are, with initiatives that include but go well beyond solar, electric vehicles, and tree planting to include such solutions as the fifteen-minute city, bioregions, azolla fern, food localization, fire ecology, decommodification, forests as farms, and the number one solution for the world: electrifying everything.

    The Rise of Technosocialism: How Inequality, AI and Climate will Usher in a New World - by Brett King & Richard Petty (2021)

    The 21st century is going to be the most disruptive, contentious period humanity has ever lived through. It will challenge our most sacred ideologies around politics, economics, and social constructs. It will force humanity to adapt in ways we can't yet imagine. 

    Brett King and Dr. Richard Petty explore the seismic social changes that will be thrust on the world over the coming decades. The Rise of Technosocialism seeks to answer both how our children will live with AI and climate disruption, along with which economies will likely emerge victorious in an always-on, smart world.

    The Good Ancestor: How to Think Long Term in a Short-Term World - Roman Krznaric (2020)

    From the pyramids to the NHS, humankind has always had the innate ability to plan for posterity and take action that will resonate for decades, centuries, even millennia to come. If we want to become good ancestors, now is the time to recover and enrich this imaginative skill.

    The Good Ancestor reveals six profound ways in which we can all learn to think long-term, exploring how we can reawaken oft-neglected but uniquely human talents like ‘cathedral thinking’ that expand our time horizons and sharpen our foresight. Drawing on radical solutions from around the world, Krznaric celebrates the innovators who are reinventing democracy, culture and economics so that we all have the chance to become good ancestors and create a better tomorrow.

    The Web of Meaning - Jeremy Lent (2021)

    Perhaps somewhat more philosophical, but incredibly useful for firing up the change of mindset needed to create a better future, The Web of Meaning offers a coherent foundation for an alternative worldview based on deep interconnectedness. The power of Lent’s book lies in how he illustrates how modern scientific knowledge echoes the ancient wisdom of earlier cultures.

    Weaving together findings from modern systems thinking, evolutionary biology, and cognitive neuroscience with insights from Buddhism, Taoism, and Indigenous wisdom, it offers a rigorous and integrated way of understanding our place in the cosmos that can serve as a philosophical foundation for a life-affirming future.

    Conscious Leadership: Elevating Humanity Through Business - John Mackey, Steve Mcintosh, Carter Phipps (2020)

    John Mackey started a movement when he founded Whole Foods, bringing natural, organic food to the masses and not only changing the market, but breaking the mold. Now, for the first time, Conscious Leadership closely explores the vision, virtues, and mindset that have informed Mackey’s own leadership journey, providing a roadmap for innovative, value-based leadership—in business and in society.

    Conscious Leadership demystifies strategies that have helped Mackey shepherd Whole Foods through four decades of incredible growth and innovation, including its recent sale to Amazon. Each chapter will challenge you to rethink conventional business wisdom through anecdotes, case studies, profiles of conscious leaders, and innovative techniques for self-development, culminating in an empowering call to action for entrepreneurs and trailblazers—to step up as leaders who see beyond the bottom line.

    Natural Intelligence by Leen Gorissen (2020)

    Mushrooms make rain, whales cool the bylimate, termites build islands, foxes green the tundra, and plankton create clouds. In Natural Intelligence, Leen Gorissen, PhD in biology, shares the latest breakthrough insights from biology and makes a solid case for why NI (Natural Intelligence), not AI (Artificial Intelligence), should be at the forefront of business innovation.

    Thriving: The Breakthrough Movement to Regenerate Nature, Society, and the Economy - Wayne Visser (February 2022, but can be preordered)

    Thriving shows how innovation can regenerate nature, society, and the economy by taking us from degradation to restoration of ecosystems, from depletion to renewal of resources, from disparity to responsibility in communities, from disease to revitalization of health, from disconnection to rewiring through technology, and from disruption to resilience of infrastructure and institutions.

    Thriving is not an exercise in blind optimism about technology or other miracle-cure solutions; rather, it is an accessible approach to systems thinking and an offer of pragmatic hope based on purpose-driven creativity and innovation. Whether you’re a progressive leader, a professional in the sustainability field, or someone who simply wants to be better informed about ways to take positive action, this might be the guide for you.

    Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire - Rebecca Henderson (2020)

    Free market capitalism is one of humanity's greatest inventions and the greatest source of prosperity the world has ever seen. But this success has been costly. Capitalism is on the verge of destroying the planet and destabilizing society as wealth rushes to the top. The time for action is running short.

    Renowned Harvard professor Rebecca Henderson's rigorous research in economics, psychology, and organizational behavior, as well as her many years of work with companies around the world, give us a path forward. She debunks prevailing orthodoxy with a new intellectual foundation and a practical pathway forward for a system that has lost its moral and ethical foundation.

    Regenerative Business Models, Powered by Emerging Technologies - Jessica Groopman, Jaimy Szymanski, and Jeremiah Owyang

    It’s not a book (yet?), but this piece from Kaleido Insights offers some deep insights into how “sustainability” efforts aren’t just the beginning of the end of “business as usual,” but the critical bridge to building resilience for the long-term. They show how the next generation of business and technologies are regenerative, designed to align markets in service of people and the planet.

    Curious to join us on a Sustainability Tour?

    Additional suggestions by our network:

    Suggested by Futures Strategist Martine Delannoy: "Solving Public Problems", by Beth Simone Noveck (2021): We as a society are confronted with wicked issues. Many organizations are attempting to solve these but with little success. This book describes a step-by-step approach to make the most of the collective intelligence to effectively and creatively come up with solutions in a co-creative fashion. This type of feasible methods to solve the core issues is what we need to help us move towards a better future.

    Suggested by Industry Analyst Jessica Groopman: Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist, by Kate Raworth (2018): Raworth handpicks the best emergent ideas--from ecological, behavioral, feminist, and institutional economics to complexity thinking and Earth-systems science--to address this question: How can we turn economies that need to grow, whether or not they make us thrive, into economies that make us thrive, whether or not they grow?

    Suggested by Mark Aink, Brandactivist, Firestarter and Connector: THRIVE by Kees Klomp and Shinta Oosterwaal: 24 essays with contributions of worldclass new thinkers on economics Kate Raworth, Charles Eisenstein, Clair Brown, Helena Norberg-Hodge and Daniel C. Wahl and many more. They share the alternatives that are available to us, such as doughnut economics, wellbeing economics, common good economics, regenerative economics, buddhist economics, commons economics, local economics, bioregional economics, indigenous economics and degrowth economics. Each of these approaches provides a realistic and enticing vision of a thriving future.

    Suggested by Leen Gorissen, Founder & CEO Centre4NI, Writer & Innovation Biologist: She’s a big fan of the work of Jan Jonker on new business models because we can only change the logic of our value creation models once we have the courage to break out of the one-dimensional tunnel vision where value creation is only about money. Jonker’s new book 'Organising for Sustainability’ (Palgrave/Springer) is available Open Access. He also made a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) based on the book consisting of seven chapters and 54 units, also Open Access.

    For those of you who aren’t avid readers or just want a taste of the authors before they buy the book, here’s a podcast list featuring all of them. By the way, if you bumped into this piece via our social media channels, tell us in the comments if we need to add any other recent books!

    The only type of innovation that will remain 960 The only type of innovation that will remain Tue, 26 Oct 2021 12:33:00 +0000 Laurence Van Elegem Despite the fact that sustainability is steadily climbing higher up on the agenda of many companies, many still associate the concept with negativism, unrealistic idealism (and therefore not commercial), deceiving marketing (greenwashing anyone?), or costs rather than an opportunity.

    And so I wanted to reframe the conversation about sustainability with this piece to prove that, at heart, it actually is ‘just’ a positive design orientation, a new paradigm for innovation, or even an active form of futurism.

    Reframing the conversation

    I don’t use the words innovation, paradigm change and futurism because we businesspeople love talking about them so much. (We really, really do, right?) But because that is truly the core of sustainability: if we don’t act on our future together in positive ways, there won’t be any in the long term.

    So it really is about:

    • Acting, on top of a mindset change
    • Together, as a system
    • With a long term perspective
    • To add value instead of extracting it

    Let me unpack that for you...

    Curious to join us on a Sustainability Tour?

    From forecasting to foreshaping

    Futurism is often a pretty passive form of thinking. I don’t mean that in a bad way. We need people who look at emerging trends, see patterns and try to imagine scenarios of where this might lead us. Amy Webb is a good example of that, and I like her definition that goes beyond the woolly reputation that many futurists have: “A great futurist sees probabilities. Not prophecies.”:

    Futurists—the good ones—aren’t alchemists, or oracles or fortune tellers. In many ways, they’re a lot like journalists. Except that rather than reporting on what’s already happened, they report on what’s starting to happen on the fringe, and they analyze that information within the context of our many changing environments. William Gibson, the author of Neuromancer, once said: “The future is already here–it’s just not very evenly distributed.” Jack Uldrich, another futurist, recently offered perspective: “[Gibson’s] point was that the trends shaping tomorrow are here today but, often, they are on the edge–or fringe–of society. The best futurists are those who can identify trends and technologies that are ‘way off to the side’ today but will move from today’s periphery to tomorrow’s center.”

    And though Webb’s form of futurism might be a lot less passive than that of many pundits and oracle tellers - she talks about “developing strategies and explaining what to do about” the future - we all know that a lot of her peers are more about (highly speculative) vision than about strategizing and execution.

    Sustainability futurism, however, is (pro)active. So it’s about putting vision into action, by innovating. You can’t just think about building a great future for generations to come but at the same time develop products that are bad for the self-esteem of young people, the environment, society in general, etc. And that is sadly often still the case for many companies: their version of sustainability is often more theoretical than practical. More about communication than about actual impact. Rather than forecasting, sustainability should be about foreshaping: shaping the future by acting now in ways that will benefit our future selves as well as the descendants of our network (and that of others).

    From a negative to a positive paradigm

    Sustainability is too often regarded as a negative paradigm: many people misunderstand it as an approach that forces us to omit certain types of behaviour (don’t buy plastic, don’t drive fossil-fuel cars, don’t buy clothes from unfair brands,…) rather than allow us to live and create better lives (treat our employees and customers better, build products that add value to society and nature…).

    For companies, it actually represents enormous opportunities for developing new processes, solutions and business models that focus on adding value to nature, humans and/or society rather than extracting it (and generating waste).

    That is why the concept of regeneration is gaining in popularity thanks to experts like Innovation Biologist and author Leen Gorissen and Industry Analyst and Founder at Kaleido Insights Jessica Groopman. They advocate that innovation should evolve from a degenerative value system to regenerative value creation. This is how Leen Gorissen describes it in her book on Natural Intelligence (NI):

    Regeneration is a biological process of renewal that leads to a higher order of health, wealth, vitality and viability. Mushrooms make rain, whales cool the climate, termites green the desert and plankton make clouds. Leave it better than you found it. That is the way life works. Once we truly grasp what this means, we will see that sustainability is the byproduct of regenerative value creation because only those species that leave the planet healthier, more vital and more viable (in terms of ability to survive) can last in the long term.

    For Jessica Groopman, regeneration really is the next phase of business model innovation, moving beyond what we traditionally perceive as sustainability:

    From short term to Day After Tomorrow Thinking

    Another crucial part of sustainability futurism is what Peter Hinssen would call ‘Day After Tomorrow Thinking’. The reason is that we will not be able to shape a better future for generations to come if we only have short term gains in mind.

    Roman Krznaric, who wrote the bestseller “The Good Ancestor: How to Think Long Term in a Short-Term World”, talks about the principle of “seventh-generation decision-making” practised by many Native American communities. The example he often gives is that of Japan’s Future Design movement, which gathers citizens to discuss and draw up plans for the towns and cities where they live. “Typically, half the group participate as residents from the present day, while the other half are given ceremonial robes to wear and told to imagine themselves as residents from 2060. It turns out that the residents from 2060 systematically advocate far more transformative city plans, from long-term healthcare investments to climate change action. This innovative form of future citizens’ assembly is now being used in major cities like Kyoto and Japan’s ministry of finance, and is starting to be spread worldwide to countries such as Nepal, Bangladesh and Holland.”

    In many ways, being forced to think about the really long term, will automatically result in more sustainable strategies and solutions. This mindshift will not be easy in a world reigned by “Buy now, pay later” buttons and nervous boardroom members breathing down our necks. But, like CEO of Pax Scientific  Jay Harman says: “If it is not sustainable, it is terminal”

    Understanding how systems work

    Now, if we want to shape a better future for our descendants over the long term, we’ll have to work together and understand how deeply connected our world is. And so the third pillar of sustainable futurism and innovation is a networked or systems approach.

    Allow me to diverge just a little bit with this beautiful description by evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis which perfectly illustrates how deep the interdependence and interconnectedness of life runs across time and space:

    The past is all around us. Darwin’s biggest contribution was to show us that all individual organisms are connected through time. It doesn’t matter whether you compare kangaroos, bacteria, humans, or salamanders, we all have incredible chemical similarities…. [The pioneering Russian geochemist Vladimir] Vernadsky showed us that organisms are not only connected through time but also through space. The carbon dioxide we exhale as a waste product becomes the life-giving force for a plant; in turn, the oxygen waste of a plant gives us life. This exchange of gas is what the word spirit means. Spirituality is essentially the act of breathing. But the connection doesn’t stop at the exchange of gases in the atmosphere. We are also physically connected, and you can see evidence of this everywhere you look. Think of the protists that live in the hind-gut of the termite, or the fungi that live in the rootstock of trees and plants. The birds that flitter from tree to tree transport fungi spores throughout the environment. Their droppings host a community of insects and microorganisms. When rain falls on the droppings, spores are splashed back up on the tree, creating pockets for life to begin to grow again. This interdependence is an inexorable fact of life.

    A big advocate of combining systems thinking with sustainability is Wayne Visser. He believes that one of the reasons why we are still failing on some of the key sustainability issues - like the environment, forced migration, biodiversity decline, inequality, etc. - is exactly a lack of systems thinking: which is the ability to perceive things in terms of relationships, patterns and context. He talks about the integrated value web, where companies need to understand how the economic system interacts with the other social, human, knowledge and ecological systems:

    Visser believes that these are the 5 forces of systemic innovation, which work best when they are combined together:

    1. Secure innovation in the resilience economy: this is how you lower risk in society, aid recovery in catastrophe and foster continuity
    2. Smart innovation in the exponential economy: this is how you boost empowerment and counter disconnection through smart technologies like IOT and AI
    3. Shared innovation in an access economy: this is how you increase fairness, inclusive design through for instance shared platforms
    4. Sustainable innovation in a circular economy: this is how you create renewable products, zero waste design and remain carbon positive
    5. Satisfying innovation in a wellbeing economy: this is how you foster vitality and happiness to counter societal discontent

    The ‘how not to’ example Visser likes to give is of the failure of the broken system of Apartheid which was:

    • Exclusive: benefitting the minority in power
    • Exploitative: abusing labour and human rights
    • Extractive: using natural resources unsustainably (see also my point about regeneration versus degeneration above)

    These are the reasons why Apartheid finally collapsed and the attentive reader will immediately see that our current economy tends to work in the exact same way. Unstable systems are doomed to disintegrate. This is just as true at the macro-economic level as at the micro-level of a company.

    So if you want your employees to foreshape the future and innovate in sustainable ways, they will need to have a basic understanding of systems thinking: how systems work, what makes them unstable and what makes them thrive. If they get it right, they will be able to innovate in ways that’s good for your business, your employees, your stakeholders, the social fabric and the environment. This might sound almost too “Big”, but they are all interlinked and influence each other anyway: understanding how to use these relationships to the benefit of all – which includes yours – is the only way to go. I simply love the example of Danone (courtesy of a keynote by Jessica Groopman) which reorganized to scale positive impact across all stakeholders, from suppliers, employees, customers to partners and the environment: even helping local farmers lowering their costs, boosting income and increase the long-term quality of their land and products.

    Part of this is of course to let the idea go that sustainability is merely about preserving the environmental context: it’s just as much social as it is commercial and environmental because, well, humans and organizations operate in a system that is social, environmental and commercial. You can clearly see this diversification in the UN’s sustainable development goals:

    Curious to join us on a Sustainability Tour?

    The only type of innovation

    If all of the above sounds overwhelming, just realize these three things:

    One. My reframing ‘just’ builds on the shoulders of innovation and science giants who have been telling us for years about the importance of long term planning (McKinsey, Peter Hinssen, Stewart Brand and his fellow Long Now Foundation members…) or systems thinking (Fritjof Capra, Donella Meadows, Lynn Margulis,… ). Though they did not always talk about sustainability, the latter really is a by-product of these types of thinking.

    Two. Just think of all the value that you will create if you move beyond the classic view on sustainability and focus on regeneration. As Leen Gorissen put it: “For most, sustainability is about trying to reduce negative impacts. While regeneration is about creating positive impact.” Or in the words of Daniel Christian Wahl (the visual below is his as well): “The step from sustainability to regeneration is more than a change in simple terminology. It is a change in mindset and worldview that will drive profound transformation.” That’s why Jessica Groopman believes that “Instead of simply striving for “more with less,” businesses ought to play a key role in achieving “better with less.”

    Three. A time will come that “sustainable innovation” and “innovation” will be completely interchangeable. Remember when we used the word “digital” to differentiate digital technologies, a digital watch or digital marketing? And then the word became completely obsolete. I believe that the same will happen to “sustainable”. Governments, consumers, employees and all other stakeholders will no longer accept any other form of product, market or service innovation. Just like we warned companies a few years ago that they had to integrate digital into their systems before it became the New Normal, I’d like to tell you that the time to make your workforce truly understand what sustainability is all about (so that they can act on it) is now.

    Let’s Talk about More than Just Where We Work 960 Let’s Talk about More than Just Where We Work Wed, 20 Oct 2021 11:36:00 +0000 Guest contributor Heather E. Mc Gowan Author’s Note:

    With vaccinations affording a return to office-based work late this year or early next, business theorists are debating obsessively – and myopically – where work will take place. Will we return to the office of 2019? Unlikely. Is a pants-free work-from-anywhere the office of the future? Perhaps for some. Is the office/work-from-home hybrid the new normal? Many people think so. Yet as interesting as those debates may be, if our only learning from 75 weeks of pandemic lockdown is about where we work, then we’ve missed the tremendous opportunity to rethink every dimension of work in the Human Capital Era. For workplaces and people to thrive, we have to rethink not just where we work, but who works, how we measure work, what we do for work, and perhaps most importantly why we work.

    In this first of a series of essays, we’ll examine Who works. Later, we’ll explore how we measure work. The current 8-hour day/40-hour week work environment is the result of Henry Ford’s observations in 1926 that accidents and errors occurred after 8 hours of work because routine physical labor breaks down at eight hours. Fewer and fewer of us do routine physical work today. Cognitive labor breaks down differently. Perhaps our workday structure should be different, too.

    What we do for work is changing, too. As more and more work becomes collaborative the routine and predictable tasks are increasingly offloaded to technology. That shift demands that we continually re-tool ourselves for new types of work. Indeed, the shelf life of (technical) skills is shortening so quickly that the skills gap will never close.

    Why we work is rapidly changing, as well. Once, we worked for survival. Then, we worked for identity and status. Now, more and more people are working to fulfill a greater purpose. In fact, recent research found that as much as 50% of the workforce is looking to change occupations in the next year to better align with their purpose and values.

    But let’s not get ahead of ourselves; Let’s first look at who works.

    Re-imagining the Workforce

    Perhaps you remember the father figure in the classic television show Leave It to Beaver. Each morning, Mr. Cleaver kissed is wife as she handed him his briefcase and sent him off to work. Mrs. Cleaver dutifully cared for the house and did her best to raise the couple’s charming, if precocious, boys. Characters like these played roles in many of the television scripts of that era, and often still do. A White middle-class dad works an office job, surrounded by other White men, occasionally interrupted by the single Gal Friday. Mom stays home with the kids, helped from time to time by a housekeeper or handy man, often the only characters of color seen on television.

    These stereotypes worked on screen because they were, in their time, mostly true. The workforce of the era put the “White” in white collar jobs. Women in the workforce were an anomaly. People of color filled the ranks of blue-collar service workers. Most certainly, these stereotypes no longer hold true. The U.S. population is more racially and ethnically diverse than at any time in our country’s history, data from the 2020 U.S. Census shows. That diversity is just beginning to be reflected in the workforce and on college campuses. In 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 76.5% of the workforce is White, 13% is Black, 6% is Asian, and 1% each is American Indian and Alaskan Natives. In 2019, people of Hispanic or Latinx ethnicity, comprising multiple races, made up 18 percent of the total labor force. The majority of Hispanics in the labor force were White (89 percent), Black (5 percent), and Asian (1 percent).

    About 35% of the total U.S. workforce has a bachelor’s degree or higher education, according to Statista. By race, 35% of Whites have higher degrees, 25% of Blacks, 57% of Asians, and 18% of Hispanics.

    Still, the stereotype isn’t changing fast enough to capture the true benefit of a diverse workforce. Researchers at McKinsey have been tracking the impact of diversity in the workforce since 2014, gathering data from more than 1,000 large companies across 15 countries. Without question, the research shows that “the most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability.” Yet the firm’s report also bemoans the “slow progress” of companies toward building diverse and inclusive workforces.

    So what’s happening in various worker segments and what must we do to fully capture the value diversity, recognizing that diversity and inclusion is not just a moral imperative; it is an economic one?

    Women Hold Up Half the Workforce

    Faced with labor shortages in 1950s China, Mao Zedong famously noted that “women hold up have the sky”, spurring women to enter the workforce on equal footing with men. Since the 1970s, nearly all the gains to the U.S. middle class have come from women entering the workforce, according to research by Brookings Institution. And by the first quarter of 2019, according to Pew Research, women became the larger share of the university educated workforce for the first time in history. In fact, more women than men have earned bachelor’s degrees since 1982, master’s degrees since 1986, and doctoral degrees since 2006, according to Department of Education data. That is a robust talent pipeline of 13 million more university-educated women than university-educated men over the last few decades.

    Adding well-educated women to the workforce has significant and universal benefit, especially now as we tackle thorny challenges from climate change to income inequality to navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. This challenging future requires a different style of working, one that is less about individuals executing tasks in isolation and more about collaborative exploration. The collective intelligence needed to tackle complex challenges especially requires the input of women. A recent cross-disciplinary research paper titled “Quantifying Collective Intelligence in Human Groups” found that, to quote researcher and author Anita Williams Woolley: “We also continue to find that having more women in the group raises collective intelligence, and in the supplement we specifically compare face-to-face and online collaborators and find few differences in the elements that lead to collective intelligence.”

    Yet despite the dramatic increase in the population of university-educated women and the clear benefit they bring to much-needed collective intelligence, women continue to be under-represented in the higher echelons of corporate America. At the largest (by market capitalization) and arguably most influential companies in the United States – technology companies including Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Alphabet (Google), and Microsoft - employee gender skews more than 72% male, according to recent data. During the pandemic, women did assume more leadership roles, according to Catalyst which has been tracking women in business for decades. Still, women account for only a record high of 7.8% of S&P 500 CEO roles.

    Yet even as women prove valuable in the workforce, we are losing their contribution, largely due to the burden of caregiving and the lack of childcare infrastructure in the United States. We lost nearly three million women from the workforce at the height of the pandemic with 1.5 million women are yet to return to work. Many of those women are moms or otherwise have caregiving responsibilities for their families. Women, and in particular women with caregiving responsibilities (and for that matter, anyone with caregiving responsibilities) should be the norm, not the exception, as we design our work systems. According to research by the New York Times, if women had been compensated for that caregiving, even at minimum wage, in 2019 it would equate to $1.9 trillion in the US and 10.9 trillion globally.

    The Tipping Point of a Diverse Workforce

    The U.S. population is more racially and ethnically diverse than at any time in our country’s history, data from the 2020 U.S. Census shows. That diversity is just beginning to be reflected in the workforce and on college campuses. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 78% of the workforce is White, 13% is Black, 6% is Asian, and 1% is each of American Indian and Alaskan Natives. About 35% of the total U.S. workforce has a bachelor’s degree or higher education, according to Statista. By race, 35% of Whites have higher degrees, 25% of Blacks, 57% of Asians, and 18% of Hispanics.

    The White majority in the population and the workforce, however, is on the cusp of change, according to demographers who expect this majority status to ebb by 2045. Change in economic status, however, is not moving as quickly. While education was supposed to close the Black wealth gap, a recent Wall Street Journal analysis of Federal Reserve’s data found that it actually has grown wider over the past three decades. Black college graduates in their thirties have higher levels of debt than both their peers and prior generations (debt over $44 thousand vs. $6 thousand for previous generations, adjusted for inflation). The median income for Black college graduates grew 7% from 1990 to the late 2010s while their White counterparts saw median income growth of 13%.

    Structural racism comes at a high economic cost, according to research by Citi that blames racism for $16 trillion in lost economic activity between 2000 and 2018. Undeniably, we have left minority communities in the US behind in education, wealth building, and equitable access to opportunity. This is a loss of human potential. Partly energized by the George Floyd Protests and the Black Lives Matter movement, collectively the largest movement in our countries history, we have seen a consistent force towards creating greater opportunities at work as evidenced by a rise in Diversity Equity and Inclusion positions in companies and the inclusion of the Measure Up Metrics in the Fortune 500 reporting. Now, the moral argument for income equality is meeting an economic one, prompting late but laudable efforts by corporations to build black and minority wealth and driving more inclusive education policy. Evidence of changing economic mindsets is also evident in the surge in Black entrepreneurship during the pandemic, according to Kauffman Foundation, to its highest rate in 25 yearsoutpacing entrepreneurship among all other races.

    These shifts are not just the right thing; they are the necessary thing in a global society with global markets. The emerging reference to nonwhite people as “People of the Global Majority” rather than People of Color signals that largest market is no longer primarily White.

    Still Waiting to Be Out at Work

    Despite dramatic shifts in social acceptance, including full marriage equality in 2015, still 46% of LGBTQ+ people say that they are closeted at work, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a number only marginally better than the 50% of folks who in 2008 said they closeted at work. (A depressing stat for me as an openly gay woman.) This lack of disclosure – and the further complexity of intersectionality - makes it challenging to collect meaningful statistics on LGBTQ+ workers. In recent years, our social understanding of gender has shifted from one that was fixed and binary as the norm to one that is increasingly gender fluid. Cases in point: By the end of 2021, U.S. Passports are expected to allow for a nongender binary gender distinction and currently 22 of 50 states legally recognize non-binary gender designations, up from 11 states in 2019. And in a June 2020 6-to-3 ruling, the Supreme Court found that federal law bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which made it illegal for employers to discriminate in employment because of a person’s sex.

    Despite progress on protections and inclusion, representation of LGBTQ+ individuals lags other workers. That’s particularly true in the ranks of entrepreneurs. More than a decade ago, the Kauffman Foundation found that the majority of net new jobs come from companies five years and younger. Startups are the engine that keep our jobs economy roaring. Yet joint research by Socos Labs and StartOut, through their Inclusion Impact Index, found both LGBTQ+ and female founders are being left out. In fact, the underfunding of both LGBTQ+ and female founders has left an economic loss of $660 billion in exits and millions of jobs over the last twenty years.

    The Wisdom of a Multi-Generation Workforce

    The median age in four of the five largest US companies (Apple, Alphabet (Google), Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook) is 33 or younger, with Microsoft trending slightly older and more aligned with the median workforce age which is early 40s. We celebrate the young, usually male entrepreneur in the hoody sweatshirt. But the reality is much different. The median age of successful entrepreneurs, Wharton researchers say, is not 25 but 45. Yet, we celebrate youthful workers exclusively at our peril.

    In the world of work that requires continuous learning and adaptation, our brains develop across our lives in a manner that recommends the advantages of multi-generational workforce. A 2015 research study by Dr. Laura T. Germine of Massachusetts General Hospital and Dr. Joshua K. Hartshorne of MIT found a range of cognitive peaks across the lifespan. Fluid intelligence - the ability to respond quickly - peaks earlier in life and crystalized intelligence - the accumulation of facts and knowledge - peaks later. Things like vocabulary and ability to read emotions peak in the 40s and 50s. Our continuously changing and uncertain world requires leaders who can help other workers adapt, making these mentoring skills increasingly in demand.

    And perhaps the greatest uncertainty of all? The size of 65+ population grew by over 34% over the last decade as Baby Boomers aged leaving still unknown the longer-term implications for work as more folks 65 plus left the workforce in 2020 than in any time since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking in 1948.

    The Case for a Multi-Dimensional and Diverse Workforce.

    As we drive deeper into the digital economy, humans will continue to be the greatest source of value creation. Little optimizes the investment in humans more than diversity in the workforce - and especially in leadership. Multi-dimensional and diverse workforces make stronger organizations better equipped to meet the demands of their market and communities by every measure: innovation, financial returns, and employee engagement.

    As business seeks to build more value of all kinds (not just financial), we need to do a better job of tapping into a diverse workforce and creating the conditions for humans to thrive. Diversity, then, doesn’t mean simply adding more women, more people of color, more LGBTQ+ people to our employment rolls. It requires a state change in the organization to capture and take advantage of the diverse perspective.

    We must create work environments, structures, processes, recruitment strategies, retention plans, and talent mobility that shatter old stereotypes to build workforce structures that maximize all human potential. This is the opportunity of the Human Capital Era.

    In the next installment we will examine how what we do for work is rapidly changing with profound implications for both workplaces and our systems for learning.

    This piece was first published on Forbes.

    5 top books to help you understand what it takes to build a future-proof organization 960 5 top books to help you understand what it takes to build a future-proof organization Sun, 17 Oct 2021 12:47:00 +0000 Nancy Rademaker Carol Dweck: Mindset.

    Great lessons for developing a growth mindset, in which failures can be turned into opportunities. Dweck illustrates how this can (and should!) be developed at a young age.

    Reed Hastings & Erin Meyer: No Rules Rules.

    A peek into Netflix’s culture and how it pays off to empower your employees.

    Erin Meyer: Culture Map.

    Teams have become more global and so has business. Erin Meyer - one of the speakers of our Mission OX program - takes you on a journey of cultural differences and how these can impact collaboration and business success.

    Joel Peterson: Entrepreneurial Leadership.

    Peterson offers four core philosophies to help leaders become truly entrepreneurial. He provides abundant and impactful examples on how to live up to these principles - not always easy, but rewarding once you start getting the hang of it.

    Yvon Chouinard: Let my people go surfing.

    Amazing book by Patagonia’s founder – a call for doing business ethically and sustainably. Chouinard built Patagonia upon strong principles and has helped the company stick to them, in an attempt to fight and challenge the culture of consumption.

    The CX leader’s manual to customer excellence - an e-book by Steven Van Belleghem 960 The CX leader’s manual to customer excellence - an e-book by Steven Van Belleghem Thu, 14 Oct 2021 07:57:00 +0000 Steven Van Belleghem Nexxworks welcomes Stijn Van Avermaet as Head of Marketing 960 Nexxworks welcomes Stijn Van Avermaet as Head of Marketing Wed, 13 Oct 2021 13:38:00 +0000 At his former organization, furniture industry partner Van Hoecke - a trusted customer of nexxworks - he was able to grow the marketing team from scratch to 20 members. It’s exactly this entrepreneurial drive and passion for starting things up that lead him to make the transition to nexxworks.

    The new Head of Marketing position is just one of 8 vacancies designed to support the further scaling of nexxworks’ programs in scope, in geography and in approach. The other job openings, like a Business & Portfolio Developer for the nexxworks Speaker Collective and a Program Developer for its memberships, can be found here.

    “I’m very excited to be joining nexxworks’ power team”, says Stijn. “What attracted me most to this new adventure is the drive for impact and the international ambition of nexxworks, which had already played a big part in forming the innovation DNA at Van Hoecke and in further deepening my passion for CX.” As a Head of Marketing and a big believer in the human side of customer relations, he will help nexxworks further strengthen the experiences for its followers and customers.

    “We’re delighted that Stijn has joined our ranks”, adds nexxworks CEO Julie Vens – De Vos. “His expertise, lifelong learning mindset, challenger attitude and entrepreneurial drive make him a perfect fit for investigating ways to further boost our customer experiences. It’s also really great to see how nexxworks customers - like Stijn now and Upgrade Estate Founders Nele Van Damme and Koenraad Belsack before him - have been transitioning from being fans to playing an active role within our organization. There’s a lot of talk of the blurring of industry lines, but I’ve come to see this blurring happening in human relations as well: where the strict ‘borders’ between employees, customers, suppliers and other partners are fading. It’s a beautiful example of Peter Hinssen’s Network Always Wins philosophy.”

    Nir Eyal: “to become indistractable, a company’s culture needs to shift” 960 Nir Eyal: “to become indistractable, a company’s culture needs to shift” Tue, 12 Oct 2021 08:40:00 +0000 Nir Eyal is a key thinker on this conundrum. His 2014 bestselling book ‘Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products’ is a must-read if you want to understand how to engage your customers by helping them build positive habits. In 2019 he followed up with ‘Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life’ which explains how we can stay focussed in a world filled with distractions.

    After his talk at our Mission CX program we caught up with Nir and discussed the ethical dangers of habit-forming technologies, how not to get distracted in times of COVID and why CX and EX rely on each other.

    "Any customer experience that is recurring needs a hook”, Nir started our conversation. “There are of course many products and services which require no repetitive use. You for example don't use car insurance unless something terrible has happened. But when you have a product that is frequently used, like software, education, healthcare or food and beverage, you need a hook.”

    For those types of products customer experience really matters, because that is part of how we form habits. In the past companies habituated customers by bombarding them with ads. Think about Coca-Cola, the way these brands created habits was by showing you thousands of messages. This uses what psychologists call the mere exposure effect, the more we are exposed to a jingle, brand or face, the more affinity we have for it.

    “Today, the world's most habit-forming companies, like Facebook, Snapchat or TikTok, don't spend much money on advertising”, Nir Said. “You almost never see their ads. That’s because they don't use the mere exposure effect, they rather use the customer experience itself. The more you use the product, the more you form a habit. Today it’s all about customer experience."

    Hooked ethics

    This leads us to the hook model, which Nir pioneered. In this model, a user’s interaction with a product passes through four stages. First there is a trigger, which intrigues the user. This trigger then causes an action, which gives a reward. Finally, a user invests some time in the product, which ties them to it. This cycle is constantly repeated, and pushes engagement from a user.

    Yet that raises the question of ethics. Habits can be good, but also bad. Recent revelations for example suggested that Instagram had negative psychological effects on teenage girls. "For children I agree there need to be restrictions”, said Nir. “There are already age restrictions around alcohol, gambling and certain media. I won't let my 13-year old daughter read any kind of book in the library. Books of course are great, but there are some for which a 13-year old girl is not ready. So we need to moderate content, in the non-digital, but also the digital world. But I think adults of ‘sound body and mind’ make pretty good choices over time.”

    Nir compared social media to drinking alcohol. “Everyone of us of course has had a bit too much to drink, yet we want to live in a world where we can drink alcohol anyways, just as we want to have the option to use Facebook. But we need to learn how to use these platforms responsibly. That's what the price of progress is all about. The internet puts massive amounts of information at our fingertips, yet that also implies that we need to learn to use this technology responsibly.”

    “Of course we should also look at this from the company perspective”, he continued. “The hook model can persuade people into doing things they want to do. Which is good. The big problem today is actually not that Facebook or Instagram suck us in, but that most companies' products simply suck. Think about interacting with government services or local businesses. ’The user experience is awful most of the time. How much better would society be if we got people hooked on online education or exercise, the way they are hooked onto Facebook? I want to democratise these techniques so everyone, not just social media or gaming companies, can use them. The opposite of persuasion is coercion. Here companies manipulate people to do things they regret. Which isn't just unethical, it's bad for business. If you trick someone into doing something they don't want to do, then they will hop onto social media and tell all their friends about it."

    Habit-forming technologies are a two way street for Nir, and through his work he tries to use them for good. "Every tool can be used in ways the designers didn't intend”, he said. “A hammer can build a house, or bash someone's head in. The techniques I teach have been around for a very long time, but I wanted to unlock them so we could use them for good. This criticism of social media isn't something new either. We always get scared of new technologies. We said the same thing about bicycles, radios and comic books. Today the discussion is about products being too engaging, but that causes a problem. We can't say to Netflix that their shows are too good, and that they should make them worse. We cannot tell Apple that their phones are too user-friendly, and that they should make the CX more shitty. That doesn't make any sense."


    In 2019 Nir followed-up his first book about habits with one about distractions (find a summary here). “The first book is about creating good habits, and the second one is about using these products responsibly. For the research for my second book I investigated technology as the big distractor. I even got rid of my smartphone and replaced it with a flip phone while I was writing. You often hear that smartphones are too addictive, so I wanted to try this. I even got a word processor without an internet connection. Guess what happened? I sat down at my desk, and I got distracted by a new book I just bought or the mess on my desk. I learned that even Plato, 2500 years ago, wrote about being distracted. People have always been distracted, it's not just the latest technology. Distraction begins from within, which is why we need to start taking responsibility."

    Which is a key subject for companies to pay attention to, since distracted employees aren’t capable of doing their best work. "Employees need to become indistractable as individuals, which I discuss in my book”, Nir said. “But we also need to acknowledge that distraction at work is not something we can address at an individual level. Distraction in the workplace is a symptom of systemic dysfunction. The company culture needs to shift to become indistractable. It starts from the top. Culture is like water: it flows downhill. The company leadership needs to understand that their employees need time to think. It really needs to be ingrained in the culture. You cannot just have email free Fridays or no-meeting Wednesdays. There needs to be a systematic approach."

    A good example of such an indistractable work culture can be found in an unlikely place. "Many people blame Slack for distracting them”, Nir said. “I went to Slack, expecting them to be the most distracted company in the world. But that's not what I found. At 6PM nobody is at the office anymore at Slack. If you send a Slack message on weekends you are reprimanded. In the company canteen there is a huge sign that says 'work hard, and go home.' Not something you would expect from a hard-charging Silicon Valley company. Everybody, from the CEO down, believes in the ethos that to do your best work you need time to disconnect. You cannot be constantly responding to every message if you want to work well."


    Since the book was published, the world lived through the COVID-19 pandemic, which introduced a new wave of distractedness that Nir hopes his work can address. "First there are internal triggers”, he said. “The desire to escape discomfort prompts us to distraction. When the level of tension goes up in the world, because of the pandemic, we're more likely to look for distraction. How many of us were glued to the news because of how crazy the world got? COVID-19 was a very big moment for news publishers, who are in the same business as Facebook: they want to sell your attention to advertisers. The other thing that changed during the pandemic is that many people worked from home. When I wrote the book the number one distraction in the workplace was colleagues. Today we're not working in an office, so the external triggers have changed. It's our kids, our spouse or our roommates that distract us. We need new ways to deal with them."

    Having a good, indistractable employee experience in turn helps companies create better products. "What is endemic to low-performing people and teams is that they do reactive work”, concluded Nir. “They react to messages and meetings all day long, and have no time for reflective work. High-performing people and teams make time for things like thinking, planning and strategising, which can only be done without distraction. In order to build experiences your customers enjoy, CX in other words, you have to have great employee experience. Employees need time to think and be creative. In order to make great CX you need great EX."

    The Change Refusal 960 The Change Refusal Thu, 07 Oct 2021 07:31:00 +0000 Celine Schillinger In horse riding, a refusal is the failure of the horse to jump a fence to which he or she submitted. It may happen, out of unexpected fear, to the most talented, best trained jumping horse. We humans experience refusal too.

    Those of us involved in change, either as in-house practitioners or as consultants, may have faced the weird situation where we submitted an idea, it was accepted, and then… we were not given the permission, the support, or the means to carry it forward. What can we do?

    A recent experience prompted me to ask the question on Twitter, despite being a bit lazy on this channel lately. The generous amount of responses, and their quality, makes me write this post so that they benefit more people.

    8 themes appear to cover the various suggestions. They can be useful together or separately. My organizing bias made me chart them on a cycle of the consultant-client relationship, from the time a problem arises. Apologies to my graphic designer friends, who probably would have done a much better job!

    The actual question was: “When a client shows no appetite for what they contracted you to do, what do you do? Stay and try harder? Leave?”. One could replace “client” by “employer / manager” (I’ll use “sponsor” to cover them all when relevant) and still find useful advice in what follows. None of that is easy, and success depends very much on context, but at least this offers possibilities to act upon an issue instead of merely suffering from it.

    Ask, To Understand

    Cat Barnard, Working the Future (UK) co-founder & partner, suggests a wise first step, which is to “get guidance from client as to what they like / don't like”. Andi Roberts recommends to “stay humble and inquisitive – what is going on and what is causing the resistance? Is it vulnerability, lack of commitment, too much risk (personal or professional)? Be there to uncover and help the client work through what is going on for them or their organization”. Andi’s comment reminds me it is time to re-read Edgar Schein’s excellent Humble Consulting. Rachel Happe, co-founder & principal of The Community Roundtable, advises “a direct heart to heart with the client. Having a client with whom you made no impact (regardless of whose responsibility that is) does you no good in the end. It's opportunity cost.” So true. Jillian Reilly suggests to “have a courageous conversation – honest, empathetic. Basically, trying to answer the question: ‘what are you afraid of?’”. Jillian is an outstanding coach in this field – check out her Antacara and spread the word if anyone may need help with taking "small steps" or "big bounds". Also, this reminds me to re-read Difficult Conversations.

    Cecil Dijoux adds it is “important to drive the client with questions* so that they see the gap by themselves rather than telling them”. I know Cecil is 100% right, I was trained to ask good questions (see Action Learning) and yet… when it comes to a professional practice you hold dear, that is also a life purpose, it’s hard to resist sharing what you know works, and even being a little assertive.

    Side note: I find assertiveness a real challenge for female professionals. Too much of it creates resistance; too little impairs credibility. I am about 2/3 into my professional life already and I still haven’t found the perfect balance.

    *About questions: A little addition to the original post, due to Frank Heublein's really thoughtful comment: "Clever questions are needed to enter into constructive dialogue, because questions can have a dominant effect and can be oppressive. One should be aware of this in these kind of delicate situations". Yes! I hate being asked questions that convey a sense of superiority by my interlocutor. I hope I never do that to others.

    Denis Florent brings an interesting one: “Find out what situation brought them to hire you in the first place. It’s possible that this situation changed in the meantime. If possible, pinpoint NEW issues and share what solutions you could bring”. If there is novelty, it must be considered. If false novelty is only invented by your sponsor to justify their change of heart / weakness / fear, you must enable them to save face and discuss the “changes” as if they were real. Denis and I were colleagues in China; a good place to learn about face saving

    Evolution Coaching and OD Katherine Long suggests to do “systemic constellations with an experienced supervisor, [which] can reveal hidden patterns of time, place and exchange in the system. Given chaotic times perhaps they may also be sensing need for caution, or a change of course - good to name what you are picking up”. Since I know very little about constellations, I found some introduction here and there. Yes to chaotic times… Yes to need for caution. Sometimes we, passionate people, get a little caught up in our own thing. More on this in the next point.

    But just one last, important thing about this sponsor conversation: be open to what comes out of it… “Sometimes this is the moment when everything opens up. Sometimes when it closes down”, says John Atkinson. Indeed, confirms Scott Gould: “I often find such moments and conversations can be transformational”.


    Now, a big part of the work when it comes to resistance is to examine your own beliefs and your own role in the process.

    Coach Jayne Harrison asks:What are you assuming about their resistance? What might be different if you were to notice it out loud? What do you want to have happen? Is this creating any interference for you/them? How do you know there's ‘no appetite’… could it be something else?”. These questions are meant to guide self-supervision. Jayne also suggests to “use different lenses to examine the situation: self, client, your relationship, the team/organisation/system to see if it brings up any new insights”. Great advice.

    Kenneth Mikkelsen, whose wisdom I have admired for a long time, says it’s always a delicate matter. “Deep down you might have to ask yourself what they want as opposed to what you believe they need. They likely brought you in for that, but some people got scared/overwhelmed along the way or don’t have power/mandate to influence key decisions. And then it always boils down to your own values. Will you do it given the constraints, altered scope/resources and potential extra work? Can you live with not making the impact you wish to make? Is it just a corporate Robin Hood project? What else could you be doing?”

    To these amazing, inspiring questions, Dr. Josie McLean adds one, her favorite to herself (and likely to become my favorite too):In what way am I fueling the mess?

    John Atkinson, whose post “Killing the Change Agent” I cannot recommend enough, closes this section with this remark: “all the best work I feel I’ve done has caused me to re-examine what I think, as the consultant you go through the change too”.

    Reframe Together

    After you’ve asked questions to understand better, after you’ve honestly challenged yourself, it is probably a good idea to reframe the project together with your sponsor, in partnership. Or, as Stowe Boyd says: “Create a new first step. Doesn't have to be a denial of what occurred, but stepping back to reframe the situation”.

    It may not be easy, Jon Leighton acknowledges. “Often short-term imperative of consulting is to keep the program going, a lost day is a day’s revenue lost forever. The right thing to do is 'pull the kanban cord'. Pause, seek clear understanding of original intent, what's changed, potential paths to joint value”.

    Dr Jen Frahm suggests a “recontracting conversation: client, you initially bought me in to do x. Based on evidence of y, it appears there’s been a shift in your requirements. Is this true? For me to meet your stated needs I need z. How do you wish to continue?” It is the old "maybe we should reassess objectives now that we have learned some things" tactic, Bruce McTague writes. “You have the hard discussion on objective setting midstream (again) & offer them an offramp if they do not want to pursue”.

    Also, “what does the contract say?” Leighton asks [– or the job description, for an in-house change maker]. “Not a great starting point, having to refer to the contract can be a signal of relationship breakdown, but assuming there's an SOW, reviewing that with Customer to look for where the miss occurred is important”.

    Before it comes to that, and in the spirit of establishing a partnership, it might be helpful to share your own needs – after all, you’re the change maker whose help was sought in the first place. Says Andi Roberts: “The consultant’s wants & offers are not being met. Does the client know this or care? If not, re-contracting is needed. The consultant is being asked to be a ‘pair of hands’ or ‘do as I say’ and their ‘expertise’ and ‘collaborator’ roles are being dismissed”.

    Reframing might be “breaking the project down in smaller packages and quicker turnarounds,” Dennis Boecker writes. “For smaller packages it is easier to agree on commitment of resources and measurable success”.

    Conversely, reframing might lead to upscaling. “I usually raise the stakes and push the project to a higher, far more ambitious level, guiding on how to also accomplish stretch goals. I find that many clients find that inspiring and come at least part of the way. And those that don't are not right for me”, Andrew Walker writes. Paul Gray confirms it does happen: “A few projects I have been on (as both consultant and client) come to the crunch question of 'do we *have* to do this?' Often good reasons no appear. However, if pushed through, it ends at 'why didn't we do this earlier?'” Fingers crossed you and I can be as successful.

    For this, it might help to release our sponsor’s fear, Claudia Vaccarone suggests, for example by showcasing successful cases. This is indeed helpful, but in a limited amount only, I have found. The “But-we’re-different-here” reflex is never long to set in, and there is often a tipping point when the sponsor stops listening to others’ stories.

    Isn’t it time then to let go a bit?

    Let Go

    “I’ve been into a few of these convinced the job is over and it’s been the turning point. In a way, I’d let go, stopped trying to own someone else’s problem and by giving it back to them, the door opened,” John Atkinson writes.

    What if we resisted the urge to control our end product? Since we’re often the ones inviting others to let go… we might as well apply this to ourselves.

    Dan Sodergren suggests along this line: “Depends on the money and the outcomes. If they will give you lots of money and a glowing reference at the end... Then it's kinda out your hands what they do with the work you produce”. Let’s be pragmatic.

    Step Back

    What if we’re more radical and, instead of letting go and remaining involved, we step back? It might actually be a good tactic.

    “Previously, despite presenting outcomes in their language (an approach I always try to adopt) I told a client something they did not want to hear. I realised the right tactic was to take a step back and give recommendations time to land. Sure enough 6 months later I was back.” That was gutsy, Paul J. Corney!

    “If they need you and have respect for you, they will be back, and then you are in the driving seat. If they don't then you have lost nothing – they would have been a nightmare client,” Martin White adds.

    Fire The Client!

    Some of us may not have the patience. There are other projects to support, other people in need of impact. Life is short.

    “Apart from all the practical considerations (terms of the agreement and things like that), my answer is simply ‘leave’”, Mark Storm writes. Jon Husband puts it even more provocatively: “Fire the client.  If you've never done that before, the first time is an interesting experience.”

    For someone who has long felt oppressed by managerial mediocrity in large companies, and who has dreamed of kicking some butt, it is very tempting I must say. Maybe not the best idea when work is scarce, or when you’re the family breadwinner. But if the enquiry has uncovered a “values mismatch”, as Cat Barnard puts it, firing the client might actually be the only wise solution. Your sanity is worth it. In any case, “leave a trace in their mind as ‘positive solution finder/implementer’, which will always keep the door open,” Denis Florent advises.

    And more wisdom from Jon:

    “The corporate-organizational world offers us such a difficult paradox. People work in them, and often what motivates us is what we have experienced and believing it could be (and perhaps will be) better for the people that work there. But the corporate organization does not feel, and perhaps does not care. Many "change" programs are carried out because it has been decided on high that this needs to be done, but it is basically (for those up there) another program to have implemented. And many "implementations" are relatively soul-less and more difficult because it's just a program. The clients a change consultant works with are quite often those who have been tasked with the implementation. Often enough it's uncomfortable for them, unless it is a passionate issue for them?”

    Avoid The Client

    “The trick is to ‘fire them’ before they become a ‘client’,” says Valdis Krebs (or to NOT join that team, that company…). “That ‘sixth sense’ comes with experience... but alas, is never perfect”.

    This reassures me, and worries me at the same time. Sometimes, when you pitch an idea, you get carried away by your own enthusiasm (at least that happens to me); you fail to notice weak signals of misalignment, or you don't want to believe them. Confirmation bias, associated with the opportunity of a great job or a great contract, can easily cloud our judgment. So, I'm pretty sure I'll make (or re-make) mistakes in choosing my clients in the future. C’est la vie ! Everything is a learning opportunity. At least, when a new project comes in, we’re better prepared.

    Create Conditions For Success

    This online discussion uncovered a few tips that might be useful at the onset of a fresh relationship with a new sponsor.

    Be super clear about contracting, roles, responsibilities, expectations etc., Jayne Harrison suggests. The sponsor needs to understand it takes time for change to happen. They can't just mandate for it. They also need to change.

    Be vigilant not to get caught up in “shelfware” (if possible): a study, verbal report, presentation, piece of consulting work… that the sponsor just park on the shelf. “Many management consulting topics fall into this possibility when clients virtue signal but don’t really want to change,” David Crouch writes; “anything where no further action is taken and was probably predictable from the outset”.

    Test the water (David Crouch’ 1-2-3 approach): “I used to spend considerable upfront free time working with clients on difficult consulting areas before committing to doing the work. I now encourage a 1-2-3 approach. 1. Do some free work to assess fit. 2. Do a very small billable piece to see what will happen as the client sees the outcomes and deliverables. 3. Commit to the larger scope and scale if 1 and 2 are successful. Expect to drop clients after 1 & 2”

    Let the sponsor experience and practice some of your suggested ideas, rather than just showing cases, says Kenneth Mikkelsen.

    To end up this amazing convoy of wise minds, a few more nuggets:

    • We’re often more ambitious for our sponsors than they are about themselves: “I often find my expectations for my clients are higher than theirs” (@josiemclean)
    • Change is tough work: “People see the change; they want the change; but they aren’t able to see the consequences of the hard work in between” (@marksstorm)
    • Don’t assume your sponsor and you understand the project identically: “’People engagement’, even explained, doesn't mean the same thing for everyone. We see things through our experiences and values” (yours truly)
    • Consulting is hard: “It’s so tough. To try to engage with integrity and satisfy the client at the same time. This is the inherent consulting conundrum” (@changingview)

    Many, many thanks to all for your most valuable input. I hope this synthesis is useful to you as it is to me! Best of luck in your change endeavors

    Tributes to:

    @Andi_Roberts, @bluegoldwalker, @boecker_dennis, @BruceMctague, @cat_pearce71, @cecildjx, @changingview, @claudia_v_, @dansodergren, @dcrouchca, @denisflorent, @evolutionorgdev, @fheublein, @IntranetFocus, @JayneHarrison3, @jenfrahm, @john_atki, @jonhusband, @jonleighton88, @josiemclean, @KenHMikkelsen, @marksstorm, @paulgray_DS, @PaulJCorney, @rhappe, @scottgould, @stoweboyd, @ValdisKrebs

    This piece was first posted on Céline Schillinger’s blog.

    PODCAST: Radar - by nexxworks October 2021 960 PODCAST: Radar - by nexxworks October 2021 Thu, 30 Sep 2021 07:38:00 +0000 Radar podcast host Steven Van Belleghem and his #nexxworks friends Peter Hinssen, Pascal Coppens, Julie Vens - De Vos and Laurence Van Elegem discuss the most exciting tech and business news of September: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation investing in online supermarket Picnic, Walgreens rolling out a bank account, Evergrande Real Estate Group's 'Lehman moment', sustainable metropolis Telosa, cancel culture in China, Wall Street Journal's Facebook Files, Facebook glasses, Uber's possible profit and the war for talent.

    Hope you enjoy this episode and please be so kind as to share it, rate us or follow our channel, if you like what you hear:

    How to develop a leadership mindset to improve your relationship to uncertainty & thrive amid constant change 960 How to develop a leadership mindset to improve your relationship to uncertainty & thrive amid constant change Mon, 27 Sep 2021 07:38:00 +0000 Guest contributor April Rinne Entrepreneurs thrive on change. But we tend to love changes that we choose, like starting a new business. What happens when change blindsides you? How can you learn to harness unwelcome change and turn it into something better than what came before? As we head toward a future in which little is more certain than uncertainty, we must reshape how we think about and relate to change. This is the message of my new book, Flux: 8 Superpowers for Thriving in Constant Change (Berrett-Koehler).

    The book is not about "change management," which is a rather underwhelming approach given the scale and pace of change we face today. Rather, it teaches you how to strengthen your relationship to change. It draws on my experience as an adviser to numerous startups and entrepreneurs, as a globetrotter working and traveling in 100-plus countries, and as a human being whose own life has been flipped upside down in both tragic and incredible ways. Here are three lessons from the book.

    Don't be afraid to get a little lost

    Think about a time when you've been lost as an entrepreneur. Perhaps you've been building a new product or feature. Do you tend to seek a quick fix, or to convince yourself and others that you are not actually lost? Or do you embrace being lost -- and pay attention to where it can take you? This means stretching beyond your comfort zone, talking to different kinds of customers, or even radically rethinking why your company exists. These are steps that not all entrepreneurs are ready (or excited) to take, and yet they can make all the difference.

    Evan Williams began Twitter as a side project. He wandered off the main path and developed an interesting concept, even if he wasn't quite sure what it was. Conventional advice would have said that he should have focused on his main line of business. But he allowed himself to get lost and keep exploring.

    During times of relative stability, getting lost is treated as a weakness. But during times of great change, getting lost -- and feeling comfortable being lost -- is actually a superpower. It's how you find your path forward in a world in flux.

    Look for what's invisible

    When you're building a business and leading a team, it's common to focus on the opportunities and challenges that you can "see." That usually means opportunities you can monetize and challenges you can measure in dollars and cents. But if you limit your scope to what's visible, you often miss the most valuable assets and insights of all.

    Consider Airbnb. Its founders saw value in the extra space in people's homes. Hotels and traditional accommodation providers didn't "see" this idling capacity as valuable, and they wrote it off. Airbnb ended up building a business with more listings than the five largest hotel brands in the world combined.

    The opportunities to see what's invisible are everywhere. Think about the skills people have that aren't on their "visible" résumé, or a marketing campaign that sees people not merely as consumers who buy things but as human beings capable of so much more.

    Reset your endgame

    Entrepreneurs often treat a specific milestone, like a revenue goal, a certain number of hires, or an IPO, as their endgame. Yet in a world in flux, change begets change. There is no endgame other than ... change. A prized company today could shutter tomorrow. Workplace norms we take for granted could change tomorrow too. The way forward isn't merely more resilience and adaptability. It's about adopting what I call a Flux Mindset: a state of mind that embraces change -- and an ever-changing finish line. Its endgame isn't set in stone but rather in constant evolution.

    Keep in mind that this process works from the inside out. Your self-awareness and your relationship to change are reflected in the way you communicate, design, build, and lead into the future. External metrics are driven by internal values, not the other way around. This is extremely easy for entrepreneurs to miss. One helpful question to get started is: Are you clear on what makes you you, and what makes your company able to thrive -- even when everything else changes?

    The takeaway

    This isn't about any one change or any one year. A world in flux is here to stay, and it has profound implications for entrepreneurs, companies, and society alike. Learning how to embrace getting lost, see what's invisible, and reset your endgame will advance today's business goals and organizational culture, and position you to thrive in a future whose "steady state" is more change.

    This article was originally published on Inc.

    5 books to help you understand (and profit from) global trends 960 5 books to help you understand (and profit from) global trends Sun, 26 Sep 2021 13:00:00 +0000 Guest contributor Peter Vander Auwera For those who are truly passionate about fostering this type of outside in vision, here are five (zero bullshit) books that fundamentally changed and formed my thinking in the matter over the years.

    Benjamin Bratton - The Revenge of the Real (2021)

    The pandemic showed us that we are completely unprepared to cope with our current deeply entangled world. According to Bratton, we need a "positive biopolitics" and an AI-based instrumentation of the world. He offers a refreshing way of thinking about sensors which is quite different from the worn out song about the surveillance state.

    Ann Pendleton Jullian and John Seely Brown - Design Unbound (2018)

    Read this if you want to understand how you can design for emergence in the Never Normal. You’ll need your full attention (it’s not a ‘light reading’ project), but in return you’ll receive two volumes of unique and well researched insights to help you better see what is and what can become. This is truly one of the most important business books I ever read.

    Bruno Latour - Down to Earth (2018)

    Latour calls for a third way in climate politics which is left nor right: a path between libertarian globalism, and leftist localism. One that is anchored in planet earth. Read this if you want to get to know one of the most important philosophers of the 21st century.

    Jenny E. Sabin and Peter Lloyd Jones - LabStudio (2017)

    Sabin and Lloyd Jones tackle the concept of the research design laboratory in which funded research and trans-disciplinary participants achieve radical advances in science, design, and applied architectural practice. The book demonstrates new approaches to more traditional design studio and hypothesis-led research that are complementary, iterative, experimental, and reciprocal.

    Christopher Alexander - The Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth: A Struggle Between Two World-Systems (2012)

    This real life story of American architect Christopher Alexander designing and building the Eishin university campus in Japan serves as an analogy for the battle between two fundamentally different ways of shaping our world. One system places emphasis beauty, on subtleties, on finesse, on the structure of adaptation that makes each tiny part fit into the larger context. The other system is concerned with efficiency, with money, power and control, stressing the more gross aspects of size, speed, and profit. This second, "business-as-usual" system is incapable of enabling the emotional, whole-making side of human life, according to Alexander, who then goes on to present a new architecture.

    6 Things Customer-Centric Companies Do Differently 960 6 Things Customer-Centric Companies Do Differently Mon, 20 Sep 2021 07:16:00 +0000 Guest Contributor Blake Morgan Many companies claim to be customer-centric, but few really are. A truly customer-centric company is obvious to everyone who interacts with it—employees and customers alike—because everything about the attitude and actions of the company is different.

    Here are six things customer-centric companies do differently.

    1 . They Have Executive Buy-In

    Customer-centricity starts at the top with leaders who understand and care about customers. When the CEO values customers more than profits, the attitude extends to the entire company. One of the biggest roadblocks for CX professionals and change agents is getting leaders on board, especially when they can’t see the immediate financial impact of investing in customer experience. But customer-centric companies have CEOs who understand the need to build out strong experience programs and put customers first. Executive buy-in makes it easier to institute customer experience initiatives. Not only that, but it leads to greater revenue success. 64% of companies with a customer-focused CEO are more profitable than their competitors.

    Perhaps no other CEO is a greater champion of customers than Jeff Bezos at Amazon. Since the early days of Amazon, Bezos has famously left an empty seat in each meeting to represent the customer. He is on a mission to create the most customer-obsessed company in the world and regularly spends time in the contact center and interacting with customers. Customers are central to every decision Bezos makes, which sets the tone for the rest of the company. Even as Bezos prepares to step down as CEO, his legacy of customer focus will last for all future leaders.

    2 . They Have A Culture of Customer Obsession

    What starts at the top with executive buy-in then has to spread to the rest of the company to create a culture of customer obsession. Leaders set the attitude for the organization. When they prioritize customers above profits, so will employees at all levels. In a truly customer-centric culture, every employee—no matter their seniority or responsibilities—knows how their work impacts customers. They see the value of what they do on the overall customer experience and are empowered and engaged to serve customers as best they can.

    Disney is known for its strong customer-focused culture, which goes back to Walt Disney himself. Employees are excited to come to work every day because they get to share Disney magic with each guest. On the first day of training, every employee learns that their goal is to create happiness. Employees receive regular training so they have the best tools to serve customers. It’s not unusual to hear of employees going above and beyond to create magical experiences for customers. They do it not because they have to, but because they genuinely want to share the magic of Disney with everyone. That’s the power of a customer-centric culture.

    3 . They Collect and Treasure Feedback

    Customer-centricity is a two-way street. A company can’t just say they know what’s best for customers without communicating with them regularly. Customer-centric companies not only understand the importance of feedback, they make feedback loops valuable parts of their processes and apply customer feedback to improve their products and service.

    Companies today have countless ways to connect and gain feedback from customers, both empirically through surveys and metrics, but also anecdotally through social media, focus groups and in-person meetings. Customer-centric companies take that information and make sure the feedback makes it to the right people who can truly make a difference.

    TD Ameritrade has one of the highest customer satisfaction scores in the financial industry, largely because of its huge focus on customer feedback. The company uses AI to analyze contact center calls for common topics and sentiment. If the algorithm notices that customers are regularly frustrated or overwhelmed about certain topics, the company adjusts its messaging and approach to proactively solve those problems. By using AI, TD Ameritrade estimates it has about 500% more information from customer calls. That feedback data fuels a customer-focused strategy and helps the company continually evolve and improve its experience.

    4 . They Innovate and Offer Digital Solutions

    Customer trends and demands are always changing, and customer-centric companies stay ahead of the curve with innovative products and service ideas. They go through continual digital transformations to offer digital solutions that are seamless and convenient for customers. Innovative companies look towards the future and give customers things they don’t even know they want, but that add value and convenience to their lives. These advances aren’t just flashy and new—they are rooted in what is best for customers.

    Lowe’s has taken home improvement stores to the next level with its innovative digital solutions. The store was one of the first to use in-store robots to answer customer questions, and it has a robust app that shows customers exactly what is in store and where to find it. Lowe’s Innovation Labs partners with tech companies, startups and governments to create the future for home improvement retail. Innovative digital solutions create a seamless experience and make Lowe’s more accessible to DIY-ers at all levels.

    5 . They Offer Proactive, Personalized Service

    Customer-centric companies understand their customers, both individually and as a whole. They don’t use a one-size-fits-all approach but instead find ways to personalize the experience to each person, including things like connected contact centers so customers don’t have to repeat themselves, personalized recommendations and individual relationships.

    Customer-centric companies are proactive and look for ways to help customers and prevent issues. Instead of acting as the clean-up crew to reactively solve problems, customer-centric companies address issues before they arise and reach out to customers with potential services before they realize they need them.

    Nordstrom has long been celebrated for its fabulous customer experience, largely because it encourages customers to go the extra mile and gives them the freedom and tools to provide great service to meet customers’ exact needs. Nordstrom is known for its personalized approach, both through the human touch and things like personalized thank you cards, but also through its app and robust loyalty program with personalized rewards like free alterations and at-home stylist consultations. It’s no reason why Nordstrom customers tend to be incredibly loyal to the store.

    6 . They Make Customers’ Lives Easier, Even If It Makes Their Life Harder

    The ultimate marker of a customer-centric company is if it makes customers’ lives easier. Too often, companies fall into the trap of making customers’ lives harder so that the company doesn’t have to work as hard. But truly customer-centric companies go above and beyond with things like self-service options, convenient digital tools and even surprising and delighting customers to make their lives easier. They don’t do it begrudgingly or because they want customers to spend more money—they do it because they genuinely care about customers and want them to have a better life.

    Starbucks knows most customers want to start their day with a great cup of coffee, but they don’t want to spend a lot of time doing it. The coffee giant’s app and loyalty program are some of the best around because of the simplicity and personalization. Customers can easily order their favorite drinks for in-store pickup that allows them to bypass the line. The app remembers customers’ preferences to make ordering as easy as possible and rewards customers with personalized discounts and offers. Starbucks’ app is a simple way to make customers’ lives easier and start their day on the right foot.

    Truly customer-centric companies think and operate differently to put customers at the heart of everything they do. These companies aren’t afraid to innovate, experiment and build lasting relationships with customers.

    Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker and the author of the bestselling book The Customer Of The Future. Sign up for her weekly newsletter here.

    This is a repost from a piece by Blake Morgan that first appeared on Forbes.

    How to avoid the ethical pitfalls of artificial intelligence and machine learning 960 How to avoid the ethical pitfalls of artificial intelligence and machine learning Wed, 15 Sep 2021 14:20:00 +0000 ​BusinessThink Creative Commons The Economics of Disinformation 960 The Economics of Disinformation Mon, 13 Sep 2021 11:55:00 +0000 Guest contributor Greg Satell What often goes untold is that McLuhan did not see the global village as a peaceful place. In fact, he predicted it would lead to a new form of tribalism and result in a “release of human power and aggressive violence” greater than ever in human history, as long separated —and emotionally charged— cultural norms would now constantly intermingle, clash and explode.

    Today, the world looks a whole lot like the dystopia McLuhan described. Fringe groups, nation states and profit-seeking corporations have essentially weaponized information and we are all caught in the crossfire. While the situation is increasingly dire it is by no means hopeless. What we need isn’t more fact checking, but to renew institutions and rebuild trust.

    How Tribes Emerge

    We tend to think of the world we live in as the result of some grand scheme. In the middle ages, the ontological argument posited the existence of an “unmoved mover” that set events in motion. James Bond movies always feature an evil genius. No conspiracy theory would be complete without an international cabal pulling the strings.

    Yet small decisions, spread out over enough people, can create the illusion of a deliberate order. In his classic Micromotives and Macrobehavior, economist Thomas Schelling showed how even small and seemingly innocuous choices, when combined with those of others, can lead to outcomes no one intended or preferred.

    Consider the decision to live in a particular neighborhood. Imagine a young couple who prefers to live in a mixed-race neighborhood but doesn’t want to be outnumbered. Schelling showed, mathematically, how if everybody shares those same inclinations that scenario results in extreme segregation, even though that is exactly opposite of what was intended.

    This segregation model an example of a Nash equilibrium, in which individual decisions eventually settle into a stable group dynamic. No one in the system has an incentive to change his or her decision. Yet just because an equilibrium is stable doesn’t mean it’s optimal or even preferable. In fact, some Nash equilibriums, such as the famous prisoner’s dilemma and the tragedy of the commons make everyone worse off.

    That, in essence, is what appears to have happened in today’s media environment with respect to disinformation.

    The Power Of Local Majorities

    A big part of our everyday experience is seen through the prism of people that surround us.  Our social circles have a major influence on what we perceive and how we think. In fact, a series of famous experiments done at Swarthmore College in the 1950’s showed that we will conform to the opinions of those around us even if they are obviously wrong.

    It isn’t particularly surprising that those closest to us influence our thinking, but more recent research has found that the effect extends to three degrees of social distance. So it is not only those we know well, but even the friends of our friend’s friends have a deep and pervasive effect how we think and behave.

    This effect is then multiplied by our tendency to be tribal, even when the source of division is arbitrary. For example, in a study where young children were randomly assigned to a red or a blue group, they liked pictures of other kids who wore t-shirts that reflected their own group better. In another study of adults that were randomly assigned to “leopards” and “tigers,” fMRI studies noted hostility to out-group members regardless of their race.

    The simple truth is that majorities don’t just rule, they also influence, especially local majorities. Combine that with the mathematical and psychological forces that lead us to separate ourselves from each other and we end up living in a series of social islands rather than the large, integrated society we often like to imagine.

    Filter Bubbles And Echo Chambers

    Clearly, the way we tend to self-sort ourselves into homophilic, homogeneous groups will shape how we perceive what we see and hear, but it will also affect how we access information. Recently, a team of researchers at MIT looked into how we share information—and misinformation—with those around us. What they found was troubling.

    When we’re surrounded by people who think like us, we share information more freely because we don’t expect to be rebuked. We’re also less likely to check our facts, because we know that those we are sharing the item with will be less likely to inspect it themselves. So when we’re in a filter bubble, we not only share more, we’re also more likely to share things that are not true. Greater polarization leads to greater misinformation.

    Let’s combine this insight with the profit incentives of social media companies. Obviously, they want their platforms to be more engaging than their competition. So naturally, they want people to share as much as possible and the best way to do that is to separate people into groups that think alike, which will increase the amount of disinformation produced.

    Notice that none of this requires any malicious intent. The people in Schelling’s segregation model actually wanted to live in an integrated neighborhood. In much the same way, the subjects in the fMRi studies showed hostility to members of other groups regardless of race. Social media companies don’t necessarily want to promote untruths, they merely need to tune their algorithms to create maximum engagement and the same effect is produced.

    Nevertheless, we have blundered into a situation in which we increasingly see—and believe—things that aren’t true. We have created a global village at war with itself.

    Rebuilding Trust

    At its core, the solution to the problem of disinformation has less to do with information than it has to do with trust. Living in a connected world demands that we transcend our own context and invite in the perspectives and experiences of others. That is what McLuhan meant when he argued that we electronic media would create a global village.

    Inevitably, we don’t like much of what we see. When we are confronted with the strange and unusual we must decide whether to assimilate and adopt the views of others, or to assert the primacy of our own. The desire for recognition can result in clashes and confrontation, which lead us to seek out those who look, think and act in ways that reinforce our sense of self. We build echo chambers that deny external reality to satisfy these tribal instincts.

    Yet as Francis Fukuyama pointed out in Identity, there is another option. We can seek to create a larger sense of self through building communities rooted in shared values. When viewed through the prism of common undertaking rather than that tribe, diverse perspectives can be integrated and contribute to a common cause.

    What’s missing in our public discourse today isn’t more or better information. We already have far more access to knowledge than at any time in human history. What we lack is a shared sense of mission and purpose. We need a shared endeavor to which we can contribute the best of our energies and for which we can welcome the contributions of others.

    Without shared purpose, we are left only with identity, solipsism and the mythmaking we require to make ourselves feel worthwhile.

    This piece first appeared on Greg’s personal website

    10 tips on how to succeed in China 960 10 tips on how to succeed in China Fri, 10 Sep 2021 07:18:00 +0000 He believes that you should be yourself, and allow yourself to make all these mistakes. Chinese business men will not be offended as you are not the first foreigner making them. But he also firmly believes that you need to change how you do business in China.

    Here are ten practical tips from Pascal’s succesful video channel (check it, it’s a treasure trove of China insights), that can help you make a bigger difference.

    Think like a start-up.

    First of all, you need to think like a start-up when you launch yourself in the Chinese market. Start-ups need to learn about their market and clients, operate with a small budget, be creative and flexible, look for customers, find money, hire an A-team, make quick decisions, be unique and do everything themselves. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that successes from other parts of the world can be copied to the Chinese market. You need to start from scratch, like a start-up

    Start small, without delay.

    When in China, dream big, but always start small. And don't delay it. Travelling 10 times to China can be fun, but it does not really make a difference. Don’t get distracted by all the opportunities around you. Start with one smaller city to test what works. And once you have some success, you need to really listen and constantly have a radar on the market. And when something works - one product or one service for one type of customer - define it, build a strategy around it and launch yourself into the big cities.

    Don’t trust your gut.

    Number three of Pascal’s China advice is “Don’t trust your business experience”. Look primarily at results and repeat what works, just faster each time. Look for people who fit your culture and who have been active in China for years in your industry. Trust these people around you. Trust the data. Trust the results. Constantly analyze your successes and then go with that and scale it from there. Don't trust your gut, trust everything around you.

    Eager to learn the other 7 tips? Check Pascal’s video:

    Three things you can learn about innovation from the National Railway Company of Belgium 960 Three things you can learn about innovation from the National Railway Company of Belgium Thu, 09 Sep 2021 11:23:00 +0000 Stefan Costeur, who heads the NMBS Innovation Lab, is one of the top speakers at our Kickstart Innovation Bootcamp in October 2021. So what better way to introduce him than to feature 3 of his top learnings about innovation?

    Innovation is an ecosystem

    Innovation should never be siloed and contained in a closed-off lab, according to Stefan Costeur. Though labs with innovation experts are obviously the backbone of many successful companies (as they are at the NMBS), innovation works best when it functions like an ecosystem.

    First, it’s about spreading an innovation culture throughout the entire company. That’s why the NMBS set up an innovation community of about 80 ambassadors from every division of the company. They are the “ears and eyes” of the innovation lab and are continuously on the hunt for new ideas and opportunities. The lab also closely collaborates with HR to spread the new mindset as widely as possible by means of webinars and workshops. A great example is the accelerator-program where employees with a great idea receive the tools and methods needed to develop their theory into a fully fledged project.

    Second, the innovation ecosystem should also reach beyond the internal borders of a company. That’s why the NMBS frequently collaborates with external start-ups and corporate partners to help them improve the customer journey with new technologies and innovations.

    Think beyond your own products and services

    As we live in a world with many societal and environmental challenges, customers have come to expect that organizations think beyond efficient products and services. That’s why the NMBS innovation projects focus on Big Challenges too, like global warming, health and inclusion.

    Examples are the Move Safe app that informs travellers when trains are expected to be highly populated, which is very relevant in times of COVID-19. Another one is the app that helps the visually impaired find out where they are exactly located. And let’s not forget about the test project that rewards travellers on the basis of the amount of CO2 that they avoided by travelling by train.

    Create psychological safety

    Innovation is a risky endeavour. Sometimes your ideas will be spot on, and sometimes they just won’t work. If you want to create a psychologically safe environment where your team feels comfortable experimenting with proof-of-concepts before rolling them out in collaboration with their business colleagues, it’s simply crucial that you install a culture that tolerates failure. This mindset is highly encouraged at the NMBS Innovation Lab, and the fact that the team has its very own office where they can freely move and test things out is a big part of that.

    PODCAST: Radar - by nexxworks September 2021 960 PODCAST: Radar - by nexxworks September 2021 Thu, 09 Sep 2021 07:40:00 +0000 It feels great to be back after the summer holidays, with a brand new Radar - by nexxworks episode featuring so much exciting news from the realms of innovation. We talked about Elon Musk’s humanoid robot, the 600 million dollar Poly Network hack, how Amazon is now bigger than Walmart, the technology crackdown from Beijing, the US (IBM) and Japan working together on quantum computing to counter China's masterplan in the matter, NFTs, back to the office madness, rules and systems regarding vaccinations and Facebook’s metaverse for work, Horizon Workrooms.

    Just for reference, here is the full Tesla Bot representation, including the weird spandex robot dance Peter Hinssen referred to:

    Hope you enjoy this episode and please be so kind as to share it, rate us or follow our channel, if you like what you hear:

    The 7 habits of highly effective CX leaders 960 The 7 habits of highly effective CX leaders Wed, 08 Sep 2021 07:30:00 +0000 Steven Van Belleghem
  • Habit 1: Be proactive.
  • Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind.
  • Habit 3: Put first things first.
  • Habit 4: Think win-win.
  • Habit 5: Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.
  • Habit 6: Synergize.
  • Habit 7: Sharpen the saw.
  • Habit 1: Be proactive.

    Covey talks about the difference between the circle of concern and the circle of influence. The circle of concern consists of all the things that are out of your control, like the weather, the economy and mistakes that others make. The circle of influence consists of all the things you can control: like your skills, what you learn or your attitude. You can either choose to be reactive or proactive here. If you’re reactive, you’ll keep complaining about the things that are out of your control and get nowhere. If you’re proactive, you’ll not only not complain about the things you can do nothing about, but you’ll find out what you can do to improve the situation.

    Just like that, highly effective CX leaders are proactive: they don’t overly focus on the negative parts of CX that they cannot control. Take the case of a really difficult customer who probably made a mistake in the online order procedure and then tries to pass off that mistake to a faulty website. There are two ways to react to that: put all your time and effort in finding out who made the mistake. If you find out that the mistake is the customer’s, (s)he will be annoyed anyway, maybe even livid because they see it differently and might never return, leaving negative reviews all over the web. And if the mistake is indeed yours, the customer won’t be happy either, because they will have had to wait a longer time before their problem was fixed. Top CX leaders, however, won’t put time and effort in finding out who made the mistake, but they will fully invest on what they can control: do everything in their power to put the smile back on the face of the customer. And do everything in their power to check, doublecheck and improve the ordering system so that mistakes – even those on the side of the customer – almost never happen.

    Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind.

    Covey believes that successful people have some sort of “map” in their minds of where they want to go in life. They determine their life goals and develop a plan on how to get there. They figure out their destination first and then work towards it.

    Amazon has a list of Leadership Principles which is used every day, “whether they’re discussing ideas for new projects or deciding on the best approach to solving a problem”. The top of that list features “Customer Obsession”, which they explain in a very Covey-ish manner:

    “Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.”

    I’s a “rule” that I often mention in my keynotes and books: a company can only be great at CX if it starts with ‘the end’, with the customer – not its own great ideas or processes or whatever seems more important at the time – and works backwards from there.

    Habit 3: Put first things first.

    This one is about prioritizing. It seems pretty easy, but we all know that sometimes we get stuck in answering e-mails or in meetings that are actually a lot less important or urgent that we would like to believe. Covey designed a really handy quadrant to help us decide if we should do, plan, delegate or eliminate something from our to do list:

    In CX, for me the priority is pretty simple: always focus on Joy (check out my video about that here), on the things that make your customers happy. That should always be the first and last thing on your mind. All the other things, that can sometimes take up a lot of bandwidth, may seem important, but they really aren’t, when you compare them to “Joy”.

    Covey’s first three habits are about moving someone from being dependent, to being independent. They’re about self-mastery, inner strength, character, purpose, and values. The next three habits are about transforming from independent to being interdependent, which is the highest level of what Stephen Covey calls the maturity continuum (from dependence to independence to interdependence). Interdependence is the level where you think like a team or like a family and where you make each other better.

    Habit 4: Think win-win.

    This habit is where Covey tells his readers that business should not be a zero sum game. If there’s a loser and a winner – even if that winner is you – the situation is out of balance and will end up becoming toxic. So always go for a win-win situation.

    Simply put, if you are a highly effective CX-leader, both your company and the customer ought to win. But I believe that that simple trade-off between financial value (for you) and product or service value (for the customer) no longer suffices today. Yes, customers expect a great product or a great service, but that’s no longer all. They will gravitate towards companies that have a Partner in Life strategy: like insurance company Centraal Beheer helping their customers with the installation of the solar panels that they help to insure. So that’s actually Win-Win² for the customer. And even more: today’s customer don’t just expect a win for themselves, but for the planet and society as well. And so Covey’s Win-Win formula has probably morphed into something like Win (for the company) – Win² (for the customer) – Win (for planet and society) when it comes to CX.  People are no longer content with a trade-off.

    Habit 5: Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.

    Many people only listen to others with the intent to reply, often even before the other finishes. But you can’t understand someone’s perspective and feelings unless you really listen to them. And really listening to your customers to understand them isn’t as simple as it seems.

    Let me explain: as I learned from Leslie Cottenjé, CEO of Hello Customer, happy customers will rarely tell you spontaneously that they are deeply fulfilled by what you sell and how you treat them. That’s just not how people are wired. The voices we do hear, are those of the angry and very critical customers. We definitely should pay attention to them, and let their feedback inspire us but we also should not let ourselves be lulled into believing that that is THE voice of our customers. They’re still a minority. A loud minority, to be reckoned with, yes. But a minority nonetheless.

    This is where data and AI comes in, of course: to find patterns, and give a voice to the silent majority, that’s just as important – if not more – than the dissenting voices. Leslie told me that when her customers started working with her customer feedback platform ‘Hello customer’, they are often surprised to understand that what they thought was a very big issue, turns out not to be not such a big deal across the entire customer base. “A lot of organizations come to realize that they have been focusing on the wrong priorities”, she told me. For instance, customers who thought that speed of delivery was a top priority, found out that customers found other issues a lot more important. So when it comes to customer expectation, it’s very important that you know who you are listening to, who you should be listening to and keep trying to see the bigger picture.

    Habit 6: Synergize.

    The idea behind this habit is that different people bring different opinions, ideas, perspectives, and strengths to the table. Instead of simply tolerating or accepting these differences, we should celebrate and value them. That is why the most effective CX leaders understand that it takes a network to satisfy customers. It’s about treating employees right and have them collaborating over silo’s, but it’s also about finding the right business and platform partners or even collaborate with competitors at times.

    It’s car company Toyota collaborating with city designers, architects and software companies to create a fantastically advanced smart city project. Why? Because they realize that mobility is changing so fast that cars probably won’t be a big part of cities in the future and knowing that they need others to help them with their vision. Or it’s McDonalds collaborating with Uber Eats for their delivery, instead of creating their own chain. Or why BMW teamed up with Mercedes-Benz to develop a car-sharing business. Synergizing with the right partners will always result in a better, faster, more efficient and more frictionless experience for your customers.

    Habit 7: Sharpen the saw.

    This habit is some kind of metaphor of Covey. He describes a guy cutting down a tree with a dull saw and someone else advising him “why don’t you sharpen that thing, it will save you a lot of time if you do”. But the guy refuses, claiming that he does not have the time to sharpen his saw because he has to cut this tree down.

    This anecdote so much reminds me of those company leaders who are so busy with day to day CX work and even cleaning up yesterday’s CX messes that they forget thinking about the future. And what they miss out on, is very often technologically related. They don’t make time to investigate new tools like AI or blockchain, 5G or IoT. Are these buzzwords? Of course, but their competition is probably already investigating if these could help them better implement their CX strategy in any way or other. And when they will start stealing away customers because they offer better, faster and more frictionless services, it may be too late to “sharpen the saw”. So, Covey is completely right that – especially when you’re incredibly busy – it’s always time to investigate how you could make your offering faster, better and more enjoyable.

    e-book: A Manual for AI Translators by Mieke De Ketelaere 960 e-book: A Manual for AI Translators by Mieke De Ketelaere Sun, 05 Sep 2021 13:03:00 +0000 Mieke De Ketelaere In her book Wanted: Human-AI Translators, AI expert and nexxworks Kickstart Innovation Bootcamp speaker Geertrui Mieke De Ketelaere answers these questions, explaining the basic concepts of artificial intelligence in an accessible and transparent way. She discusses the many opportunities that AI offers, but does not neglect the risks. De Ketelaere takes you beyond the hype, allowing you to participate in this fascinating debate in an informed manner.

    This free e-book is the first chapter of Wanted: Human-AI Translators. You can download it below.

    How The Best Companies Hire Talent 960 How The Best Companies Hire Talent Sat, 04 Sep 2021 07:31:00 +0000 Guest contributor David Burkus And while it’s widespread knowledge that hiring is the most important decision you can make, the knowledge of how to actually hire great people is rare. But there are a few methods—and a few organizations—that stand out.

    So, in this article, we’ll examine four ways the best companies hire talent.

    Hire Through Teams

    The first way that the best companies hire talent is by hiring as a team. This means that it’s not up to just hiring managers to run all the interviews themselves and select the candidate they see as best fit. We know that the success or failure of a new hire is massively impacted by the team they join and how well they fit. So, it’s only logical to involve that future team in making the decision. In some cases, that means turning the whole hiring process over to the team. In others, it means bringing individuals into key parts of the process. But in all cases, it means creating a system to get feedback from the team before a final decision is made.

    For a long-time, tech giant Google incorporated this. Not only would candidates interview with hiring managers, but they’d interview with coworkers, future potential coworkers, and (in some cases) future potential subordinates—meaning if you were on a leadership track, you’d interview with the type of people you would lead. All of that feedback was collected and added to a candidate’s portfolio before an offer was made.

    Use A Structured Process

    The second way that the best companies hire talent is that they use a structured process. A structured process meaning every candidate they examine is given the same tests—down to the questions being asked. Many companies claim to have a structured process because they give each candidate the same number of interviews—but their interviewers ask whatever questions they feel like in the moment. Or they’ll skip reference checks if the candidate is referred internally. Or sometimes even skip a whole interview if they “have a good feeling about this one.” Without examining each candidate through the same process—it’s impossible to make comparisons between candidates.

    In addition to their structured interviews, Proctor & Gamble requires applicants to complete three assessments even before the first interview. A “success-driver” test is used to determine candidates’ work-related attitudes and compatibility to P&G. Then a cognitive exam to measure intellectual capacity and finally, a reasoning test to assess what candidates do with that capacity. While the merits of these tests could be debated, the fact that each and every candidate completes them makes comparisons between applicants much easier (and final decisions much better).

    Use More Than Interviews

    The third way that the best companies hire talent—and this goes alongside the second—is by using more than just interviews to assess candidates. Adding structure to the interview process and the interviews themselves can go a long way toward improving selection decisions. But relying solely on whether a few people in the organization “click” with a potential candidate is still a poor selection method by itself. There is a lot more that is required of employees than just how friendly they are and how well they can answer questions—and the selection process should reflect what’s required on the job. That’s why many great companies add assessment tests, work samples, or other experiences to their selection process. And the research supports these additions.

    While they were interviews of sorts, technology company Automattic became known for using alternative methods than just a face-to-face interview in their hiring process. Many parts of the process were conducted over email or even a chat tool—including the final round interview with CEO and founder Matt Mullenweg. As a geographically-dispersed company, face-to-face interviews were often impossible to coordinate. And the majority of communication happened in text form anyway. So, it just made sense to over-emphasize the use of writing during the process.

    Offer A Trial

    The final way that the best companies hire talent is by offering a trial before or after an offer is made. Sometimes called sample projects, probationary periods, or a host of other names, trials work because they acknowledge that hiring doesn’t stop once an offer is made. During the onboarding process, new hires learn a lot more about the organization and organizations learn a lot about the new hire. And sometimes, the biggest lesson learned is that it’s not actually a good fit. But it’s hard to get back “sunk costs,” so often nothing is done for months or years—until that no-longer-new hire gets put on a performance improvement plan and eventually dismissed. That’s why many great organizations seek to let candidates try out the job before making a final commitment.

    For a long time, grocery chain Whole Foods implemented trials in the form off a 30-60 day probationary period after which the team a new hire served on would vote whether or not to allow them to continue on the team. In most cases, a month on the job is all it takes to learn whether or not someone actually is a fit. And Whole Foods was offering the team—and the individual—a chance to correct any accidental misfits. Trials like this may sound cruel, but it’s often crueler to allow employees to remain in jobs or on teams that won’t engage and motivate them.

    Exactly how these methods can be applied varies by company. But the result don’t. Adding just one of these methods to a selection process improves the ability to assess candidates and team fit. Hiring is truly one of the most important decisions leaders make, and these methods shorten the odds of making the right decision and finding the best hire ever.

    This article was first featured on

    Mission NXT - your subscription to the global forces that will define the future 960 Mission NXT - your subscription to the global forces that will define the future Wed, 01 Sep 2021 07:39:00 +0000 What’s it all about?

    In this brand-new annual membership program, Peter Hinssen, Pascal Coppens and their renowned international guests - John Hagel, Brett King, Costas Markides, Shannon Lucas and many more - will discuss a number of major business trends through a global and geopolitical lens: from the future of finance, energy and healthcare to networked organizations, the 300 billion gaming economy, the latest evolutions in China and many more exciting subjects. “More and more companies are feeling the impact of what is happening elsewhere in the world. This was obviously already the case before the corona pandemic, but that trend is only getting stronger," explains Peter. “The time to transform these disruptions into opportunities is now.”

    Who’s it for?

    Mission NXT is aimed at strategic thinkers in management and boards of directors who work in an international context and where geopolitics is (or should be) an important point of discussion.

    Who are the speakers of the first session on the future of finance?

    Mission NXT’s very first episode is an in-depth conversation about the future of finance, featuring a fantastic international line-up:

    • Futurist Brett King is an Amazon bestselling author, an award winning speaker, hosts the globally recognized radio show “Breaking Banks”, is the Founder and Executive Chairman of neo-bank Moven, and he advised the Obama administration on the Future of Banking. We will ask Brett what changed between Banking 2.0 and Banking 4.0, poll for the Top-3 trends in Financial Services today, and collect his insights from his upcoming book “The Rise of TechnoSocialism”.
    • Antony Jenkins: This former Group CEO of Barclays is the Founder and CEO of and he’s passionate about improving the banking experience by 10x. He is Group Chairman of Currencies Direct, Board member of Blockchain, Board Director for US mortgage lending giant Fannie Mae and also an external member of the Prudential Regulation Committee. He chairs the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education. Antony was awarded a CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for services to business in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in June 2021. His talking points will be: The Time to Build Better Banks is Now, Blockchain, Regulatory aspects of change, and a bank is a data company.
    • Gottfried Leibbrandt: Steeped in economics, network theory and standards-speak, Gottfried has spent a lifetime in the payments industry and enjoyed every moment of it. He was a partner at McKinsey where he co-led the European payments practice. He joined Swift in 2005, where he held several functions, including head of strategy and head of standards. From 2012 to 2019 he served as CEO. He is the author of “The Payoff: how changing the way we pay changes everything” and a PhD dissertation on the topic of network effects in payment systems. He currently serves as board member of Fintech and FX settlement infrastructure CLS group. Gottfried will discuss the key takeaways of his latest book and share his hopes and fears for the financial system, including his opinion about CDBC’s (Central Bank Digital Currencies).

    Interested in more? Nexxworks also launched 'Mission CX' last year, in which international keynote speakers and authors Steven van Belleghem and Rik Vera zoom in on customer relationships. On September 10, it also will kick off 'Mission OX' on organizational management, leadership and innovation, with international keynote speakers Nancy Rademaker and April Rinne as your program guides. All Mission programs are made available as subscriptions of 1,250 euros per year (or 1,750 euros for the three together). Check them here and claim your 30 day trial.

    4 Things Every Business Leader Should Know (But Most Don’t) 960 4 Things Every Business Leader Should Know (But Most Don’t) Tue, 24 Aug 2021 09:21:00 +0000 Guest contributor Greg Satell Yet read through the business press and you’ll find no shortage of simple rules and slogans that supposedly unlock success. We’re told to “innovate or die,” to fight a “war for talent” and to “find our why.” Yet as Philip M. Rosenzweig points out in The Halo Effect, many of these notions break down under more rigorous analysis.

    The truth is that leadership is the art of managing the ambiguous, or as Stanley McChrystal has put it, “a complex system of relationships between leaders and followers, in a particular context, that provides meaning to its members.” In other words, things are never simple., but here are some things I wish someone had told me a long time ago. I hope they help.

    1. Innovation Is Never A Single Event

    The apple that fell on Isaac Newton’s head. The chance observation that led to Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin. Steve Job’s insight about “a thousand songs in my pocket that led to the iPod and the resurgence of Apple. It seems like every innovation story starts with a story of serendipity and spontaneous epihpany.

    Yet innovation is never a single event. It is a process of discovery, engineering and transformation and those three things almost never happen at the same time or in the same place. So managing innovation is largely about managing handoffs between those three phases.

    What most managers fail to realize is that, when it comes to innovation, generosity is often a competitive advantage. The best innovators aren’t necessarily any smarter, or harder working or more ambitious than anyone else. What makes them different is that they build better networks and that’s what makes them more likely to come across that random piece of information or insight that helps them crack a really tough problem.

    That’s much different than the stereotype of what many believe an innovator looks like or acts like. All too often, managers hire a mercurial, egotistical jerk who would rather grandstand and spout off ideas than build strong, collaborative relationships. That’s the easiest way to kill a culture and stop innovation in its tracks.

    Innovation is, probably more than anything else, essentially about collaboration.

    2. You Need To Fire Nasty People

    Once you begin to to understand how important it is to institute a culture of generosity and collaboration, it becomes clear that you need to change not only how you hire, but how you fire. That’s why at some point fairly early in my career I began to suspect that I should fire nasty people, even if they seemed to be high performers.

    The first time I tried it was with a sales director I had inherited, who accounted for 90% of her department’s revenues. It was a highly controversial move. But when the dust settled, something amazing happened. Sales shot up! As it turned out, she wasn’t really great at selling, she was great at getting sales attributed to herself.

    After that, I never looked back. Firing nasty people became a mantra. In fact, it became so ingrained in our company’s culture that it was even included in orientation training, so that employees knew from day one how important we believed a collaborative environment to be.

    Some time after instituting the policy, Bob Sutton published his excellent book, The No Asshole Rule outlining a wealth of research showing the hidden costs of holding on to nasty people in your organization. So if you are wondering if that high-performing jerk on your team is worth the trouble, rest assured, he (or she) is not.

    3. Don’t Believe Everything You Think

    A leader’s primary job is to make decisions. Most of these will have a significant impact on other people and must be made with incomplete information in a compressed time frame. The truth is that you never really know if you’re making the right decisions. Information can only be validated forward, never backward. Nevertheless, decisions need to be made.

    What makes things considerably more difficult is that our minds often work against us in a number of ways. First, our brains have evolved to detect patterns that may or may not be there. We also tend to overweight the information that is easiest to access, rather than what’s most likely to be accurate and we have a tendency to seek out information that confirms our beliefs and reject contrary evidence.

    So it’s super-important to check ourselves and not believe everything we think. We need to work to make sure we’re actively encouraging a diversity of opinions. There are formal processes that can help us do this, such as pre-mortems and red teams. Other practices, such as having the most senior leaders speak last at meetings, can help too.

    Most of all, we need to have a sense of humility. It’s far too easy to be impressed with ourselves. Or, as Richard Feynman famously put it, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.  So you have to be very careful about that.”

    4. The Role Of A Leader Has Changed

    In 1975, more than 80% of US corporate assets were tangible assets, or things like factories, equipment and real estate. The role of a leader was, largely, to formulate plans concerning those assets, mobilize them with a specific strategic intent and direct execution of those plans. Good leaders were supposed to be wise, but firm taskmasters.

    Today, however, the script has flipped and more than 80% of corporate assets are intangible assets, so things like licenses, patents and other intellectual property. The primary purpose of today’s leaders is to manage ecosystems of talent, technology and information. Good leaders are, as Stanley McChrystal has put it, “empathetic crafters of culture”.

    Strategy is no longer a game of chess, in which we plot out each move, survey the board, and plan a new set of moves. Events happen in real time, far too fast for leaders to be consulted at each juncture. Things work more like a MMO video game, in which you recruit a team and other assets to achieve a specific strategic objective and then repeat the same process for the next quest.

    What it comes down to is that we can no longer just tell people to do what we want, we need to attract people who want what we want, who share our sense of mission. A leader’s job in a networked age is, largely, to widen and deepen connections. It is no longer enough to simply plan and direct action, we must inspire and empower belief.

    This article was first featured on

    The physics law that will help you better understand your organization and make it thrive 960 The physics law that will help you better understand your organization and make it thrive Thu, 05 Aug 2021 09:08:00 +0000 Laurence Van Elegem I’ve never been a huge fan of boundaries and how they divide things that should be connected, into separate entities (Yes, obviously, some boundaries are useful, but many of them are obstacles). It’s why I have always been intrigued by solutions and concepts that unite the arts, math, business, physics, etc. Traditionally, those disciplines tend to be regarded as completely different, but the truth is that they are all examining the same: human nature and its context.

    A great example of this type of converged, boundaryless thinking is David Christian and his concept of Big History. I had the luck of interviewing him for our nexxworks Innovation Talks, if you’d like to hear more:

    But perhaps one of the best illustrations of cross-discipline notions, is Duke University Professor, author and multiple awards winner Adrian Bejan’s constructal law:

    “For a finite-size system to persist in time (to live), it must evolve in such a way that it provides easier access to the imposed currents that flow through it.”

    The constructal law might seem abstract at first, if you lack some context. But it explains the evolution of any type of system: from rivers and lightning bolts to trees, veins, streets, animals, technology, knowledge, language, culture, organizations and even innovation. It’s a beautiful law that governs life (and non-life) and can help us understand, and even predict many of the challenges of organizations and innovation.

    The value of freedom

    Adrian Bejan is perhaps one of the most original minds I’ve ever had the honor of interviewing. On top of everything else, he also made me realize that scientific work is irrevocably interlaced with the life of those who perform it. Or as he himself put it: “all research is autobiographical”. Adrian grew up in the harsh and unforgiving Romanian regime that was lead by the communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu. And so it is perhaps not surprising that his law is an ode to freedom, flow and greater access. Things which were very scarce in communist Romania. Only the (once) unfree and suppressed understand the true value of freedom and the danger of stifling boundaries.

    But back to the constructal law. It’s a non-denominational law of physics that builds further on top of the laws of thermodynamics (a discipline in which Adrian is specialized) and it accounts for the phenomenon of evolution of form or design throughout nature, in flow systems that can be both inanimate or animate. I love the fact that he sees connections everywhere, between the scientific disciplines - it’s why he’s such a fan of the renaissance man concept - but also between the flow systems themselves: “nothing operates in isolation; every flow system is part of a bigger flow system, shaped by and in service to the world around it” (Design in nature).

    Adrian formulated his law because he felt that that evolutionary design - which happens naturally - was not covered in what he calls the “book of physics”.

    Always evolving towards greater access

    So what’s the law really about? Simply put, the urge of any flow system – which is any moving or ‘living’ system – is to flow more easily, to liberate the flow because that is how it stays ‘alive’. Its natural configuration has freedom to change. It always evolves in the direction toward greater access for what flows, resulting in easier and farther spreading. This could be the flow of heat, of a fluid or even that of a pedestrian crowd in a city. Or society and all its features: economics, communications and education.

    The movement or evolution in a flow system can sometimes be incredibly slow, like in the case of rivers changing their course or roads and subways that transform or regimes that restrict access and freedom that will eventually end one way or another. But in spite of its possible slowness, the dynamic of facilitating the flow will always surface. Or as Adrian put it: “even the beaten path never stays the same”.

    Invest in opening up the flow

    So what can we learn from Adrian’s constructal law when it comes to business? Adrian advises company decision makers to invest as much as possible in opening up the flow inside and outside their own flow system, the organisation. According to him, this can be done in two ways: through people and through technology.

    People, first. Adrian explained that CEOs need to attract the type of individuals who excel at opening up the flow and providing greater access: those individuals to whom new ideas occur and who have a talent for figuring out how to guide channels into flowing more easily. “Oddballs” who are not afraid to say the unthinkable and question the CEO, who – herself or himself – also needs to keep questioning the status quo, by the way. Examples could be to invest in a Head of HR who understands when to transfer which people to which department. Or in a CMO who knows how to create greater access to his company’s blog, podcast and all types of existing content. Or in a boundary spanner, the type of people who act on the peripheries of companies and are great at networking, because they know how to connect the different departments of an organization, as well as create useful outside partnerships.

    But companies should also invest in technology devices that facilitate the opening up of the gates of new ideas and information: through better and faster connection, better communication or better transportation. An example could be German industrial player Bosch investing in 5G in order to create faster and better access to its industry 4.0 applications. Or Elon Musk who’s a fantastic example of how the constructal law works, according to Adrian: constantly launching new and daring ideas that will lead to breakthrough technologies. Like providing greater and faster access to city transportation with his boring company.

    Innovation liberates the flow

    Innovation, too, is a manifestation of the constructal law. “Innovation is a change that suddenly liberates the flow”, explained Adrian. It opens the gates of the flow and has the effect that everyone in the vicinity of the innovator can quickly and directly profit from his or her success, which comes from the greater flow. That’s why the partners and suppliers of very successful companies tend to thrive themselves as well. Or why – through the very local invention of the steam engine in Cornwall – its success quickly spread through the rest of western Europe. Success is not just about facilitating the flow, but sometimes even about proximity to that flow.

    Another interesting application of the laws of thermodynamics in innovation by the way, is how opening up one gate, sometimes (partly) closes another. Like when a leak in a water pipe greatly reduces the flow of a faucet. Just like that, innovation can sometimes reduce the flow of the existing system: this phenomenon is commonly known as the ‘cannibalization of the existing business’. An example would be when a university would start investing in online courses, which are cheaper but can offer greater scale. Before the scale advantage kicks in, the online courses might cannibalize on the existing (and much more expensive and exclusive) on-campus business model.

    What we think of as market dynamics, is all thermodynamics, really.

    Everything that spreads, grows along a slow-fast-slow s-curve, explained Adrian. If a maturing system is not able to provide greater access to the flow, eventually it ossifies and dies. It’s the reason why pandemics, like COVID-19, always grow along an s-curve. Or why, when you spill coffee on the floor, it “has a small initial footprint, followed by a rapid finger-shaped expansion across the kitchen’s tiles, followed by a final phase of slow creep”. Or why certain natural shapes repeat themselves and mirror each other: from the design of a lightning bolt to a river delta or a subway map:

    Economics, too, are subject to the constructal law. “There is a one to one proportionality between gross domestic product and the amount of movement during that year, for which the amount of fuel burnt is a proxy”, explained Adrian. For instance, Western Europe has a high GDP and a high consumption rate of fuel. (Yes, we did talk about the impact of burning fuel on the environment and Adrian believes that the system will self-correct when we will have no other choice than to evolve from there.)

    Obstructing the natural flow comes at a cost

    The constructal law works ‘in reverse’ as well. It cannot just predict how a system will evolve, but also how a system will become toxic when it isolates itself and the natural flow and the access are willingly limited. This will eventually lead it to fossilize and die. I had to think about filter bubbles in social media, of course, where the free movement of information is limited and instead orchestrated by algorithms that push ‘sameness’ and commercial content. The result is a design that nurtures polarization, extremism in any form and capitalism. It might have taken a while before the public caught on (but remember, the natural tendency of a flow system is not necessarily fast), but Facebook, for instance, is now confronted with an enormous image problem and the younger generation shies away from it.

    Obstructing the natural flow comes at a cost.

    Another ‘how not to’ example would be a company with a highly siloed structure where the natural flows of information, communication and collaboration are closed off. Companies can survive a while this way, as we all know, but eventually mismanagement, miscommunication and lack of innovation will follow, resulting in certain death. The law is also an illustration of why putting up walls and fences against migration does not work: you can’t just obstruct natural flows because you don’t like them and then expect they’ll go away.

    What I perhaps appreciate most in Adrian’s work is how he forces us to see that basically everything on earth follows the same dynamics. We love to believe that human cognition and human structures are somehow special. That they follow they own, almost magical rules. That mind always trumps over matter. But organisations or governments are not just purely ethereal intellectual designs. They are not a separate part of nature but are fully embedded in it. And they follow the same laws of physics as the rest of the flowing natural world, animate and inanimate. If we start to acknowledge that, we might actually benefit from it. Whether it’s for our companies, governments, environment or society as a whole.

    Feature picture of Adrian Bejan: courtesy of Juan Mejia.

    Next to his scientific work, Adrian Bejan has also written several books for the general audience:

    8 things we can learn about lifelong learning from Mastercard 960 8 things we can learn about lifelong learning from Mastercard Mon, 02 Aug 2021 15:48:00 +0000 Laurence Van Elegem One of the reasons for Mastercard’s renowned innovation mindset and success is it’s intensive focus on permanent learning throughout the entire company. And as nexxworks’ mission is to help companies build and nurture continuous and collaborative learning programs, I wanted to investigate what it’s ‘trade secrets’ were in the matter, in the hope of offering some inspiration.

    Here’s what we can learn from them:

    Have a powerful vision

    Mastercard does not ‘just’ invest in learning where learning is needed. Its endeavors are part of a broader innovation strategy, which is what makes these learning tracks so durable and effective.

    First of all, Mastercard is highly conscious of the fast pace of the context it is operating in, and that swift market evolution requires continuous innovation. Continuous innovation, in its turn, permanently requires new skills. Rather than only investing in a hiring and acquisition loop (which it also does for reasons of learning as you’ll see below), it aims at keeping its employees ‘valuable’ by retraining their skills over and over.

    Mastercard is highly aware of the fact that, in a ruthless world of talent management, retention becomes a true competitive advantage. As chief talent officer Kelly Joscelyne explained: “For us in talent development and management, this is the triple crown for acquisition and retention of top talent: job satisfaction, social purpose and increase of skills.”

    So the learning strategy focuses just as much on value for the company as on value for the employee (in order to retain them). Or as Joscelyne describes it: “We cultivate a culture of continuous learning to provide employees a variety of experiences to develop current capabilities and acquire new skills to sustain their marketability.”

    When it comes to learning, having a powerful and embedded vision is key.

    “The most important skill, in the words of Peter Drucker, is the skill of learning new skills – everything else will become obsolete over time.”

    Focus on a learning mindset rather than on skills

    Part of Mastercard’s vision about continuous learning is the insight that the shelf life of knowledge and skills is shrinking fast – for many topics about five year tops (or less, depending on the subject) - and that an agile and curious mindset becomes increasingly important.

    As Steve Boucher, former VP of Global Talent Development at Mastercard puts it: “The most important skill, in the words of Peter Drucker, is the skill of learning new skills – everything else will become obsolete over time.”

    Think in platforms

    And what better way to foster the skill of learning new skills, than with a learning platform? Let’s face it, though on location classroom learning does still have a valuable role to play today, if you really want to instill a culture of lifelong and permanent learning, only a virtual platform can ensure the availability and budget realism needed to achieve this properly.

    Wanting to offer its employees real-time learning, anywhere, anytime, anyhow, Mastercard opted to work with Degreed. It’s a data-driven and personalized learning platform which features a very comprehensive list of content providers. Degreed’s Mastercard platform includes Pluralsight, LinkedIn Learning, Harvard Business Publishing and Mind Tools among others.

    Foster diversity of content

    Degreed’s comprehensive platform approach illustrates the great attention Mastercard’s learning strategy pays to diversity, with so many different types and formats (from longer courses to bitesized ones) of courses and other content available.

    I love how the learning at Mastercard is not restricted: employees can study what they find most interesting, which is of course a perfect fit with their ‘learning to learn’ strategy. It encourages its people to learn skills aligned with their career goals as well as their general interests, even if the latter may at first sight not seem very relevant for the company as a whole. This is how Steve Boucher explains the approach:

    “We want our people to bring their best self to work – and sometimes that means learning skills that are unexpected. We have people learning everything from historical facts to wine tasting. This may not seem completely aligned with our business goals, but every learning activity is an opportunity to build power skills.”

    Personalize it

    No better way to personalize the individual learning experience than by offering a very diverse menu of possibilities and having people choose the path, content, people and experiences that are most aligned with their own interests and goals.

    At the same time, Mastercard takes a very data driven approach to talent management. For example, in 2020, it built an AI Garage engine that helped analyse the development needs of more than 17,000 employees and it used the information to inform learning and development investments for that year. For instance, the marketing team obviously would obviously need to learn about AI and blockchain from a very different perspective than the engineers.

    Young potentials, too, receive custom-tailored development plans that supplement the more traditional educational events and skill-building sessions.

    Make it collaborative

    In the fifth discipline, systems scientist Peter Senge wrote about the concept of “team learning”, which happens when teams start ‘thinking together’: sharing their experience, insights, knowledge and skills with each other about how to do things better. In other words, they develop reflection, inquiry and discussion skills to conduct more relevant change conversations with each other to create a shared vision of change and act upon that together.

    Now, if teams are very uniform, and lacking in diversity, then this team learning will remain quite poor, as most players will have very similar skills and knowledge.

    Mastercard seems to have a deep understanding of this type of dynamic, as its hiring process is just as much seen as a part of the learning and skills transfer cycle. Their strategy for hiring external candidates is about much more than simply filling missing slots. The real goal is “to change the gene pool” of their company, as one senior executive put it, by bringing in new talent, team members that offer different perspectives, not just ethnically and geographically, but in experience, knowledge and skill sets.

    At Mastercard, lifelong learning is not just a knowledge and skills transfer in a (virtual) class, it’s just as much an enduring conversation between people who are so different that they can learn a lot from each other. This approach is fostered not just through the hiring process, but through “learning lounges” in office locations across the world, as well. These lounges are digital environments where technology connects employees across geographies in real-time, and serve as multi-purpose collaborative environments which offer an informal and intimate experience.

    Keep it moving

    If learning is part of your strategy to thrive in a fast moving world, it’s only logical that your approach evolves along with the changing market and customers.

    During the full pandemic, for instance, Mastercard has been particularly focused on its people’s wellbeing. The content on Degreed, too, was adapted to this shift, with “pathways set-up to help people work from home, build resilience, and protect their mental health”.

    At the same, the company also recognized that the past months were unlike any other time we’ve experienced. And so they haven’t pressured their people to keep learning if this isn’t a top priority for them in a highly stressful period.

    In other words, your learning strategy and approach, too, must keep moving and adapting to the current situation.

    Start small and test it

    If your learning strategy isn’t as comprehensive as Mastercard’s, their approach may at first seem a bit intimidating. But, as with any change or innovation, the trick is just to start with small experiments, find out what works (and doesn’t) and then roll out the successful ones.

    In the words of Amanda Gervay, Senior Vice President Human Resources Asia Pacific at Mastercard:

    “Once your skilling content or program is ready, first test it with smaller pilot groups before you roll it out across an entire organization. Make changes based on employee feedback. Only after your program is tested and optimized, should you scale it to reach more employees.”

    So, to conclude, these are the 8 things we can learn from Mastercard about lifelong learning:

    1. Have a powerful vision
    2. Focus on a learning mindset rather than on skills
    3. Think in platforms
    4. Foster diversity of content
    5. Personalize it
    6. Make it collaborative
    7. Keep it moving
    8. Start small and test it

    What are your own methods, or your favourite continues learning organization stories? Let me know at!

    I know what you need this summer: 5 things your customers crave 960 I know what you need this summer: 5 things your customers crave Thu, 29 Jul 2021 07:28:00 +0000 Ken Hughes At the time of writing, we still face uncertainty. The UK rates of infection have gone from a stable 2,000 cases a day back to 20,000+ a day in under a month, while India seems to have come out the other side of its 350,000+ cases a day horror story. Colombia and Brazil are struggling as is Russia, where infection rates have doubled over the past 30 days. We are by no means out of the proverbial woods.

    And yet we are. Perception is an amazing thing. From a consumer sentiment perspective, it is all over. If you are reading this in Europe or the US you will certainly identify with this. Regardless of the statistics on cases or vaccinations, the consumer themselves seems to have had enough and decided to take their lives back.

    Vaccines will continue to be administered at pace, new booster shots developed to tackle the new emerging variants, and the ‘acceptance’ stage seems to have been reached by most in their grief cycle. We’ve navigated through denial, bargaining, anger and depression and now it’s time to get on with our lives. That’s the sentiment, we’ve done the hard work, and now its time to move on.

    For brands and businesses, this means opportunity. Any business that fails to capitalise on The Big Take Back will possibly lose out on one of the biggest moments in brand attachment of our times. So, this summer, here are 5 consumer values to keep in mind.

    5  consumer values to keep in mind this summer

    1. Escaping the Box of Home

    We have spent so long imprisoned in our own home, county and state. Working-from-Home combined with few vacations has meant that consumers yearn to escape the four-walls of home. While the travel and hospitality sectors are the ones set to make the most from this, any brand can tap into and leverage this sentiment.

    Consumers are hungry for escape. Give them a reason to go somewhere beyond the environments they know. The Big Take Back, certainly in the short-term has a very ‘away form home’ feel about it. The big day out, the trip away, the outdoor life, the picnics, sunshine and friends, the fresh air and fun. Adventure is out there, not at home. These are all images you want to be highlighting in any marketing communications over the next 3 months, regardless of what business you are in.

    2. The Desire for Social Reconnection

    A ridiculously obvious value, but isolation breeds a desire to reconnect. Social connection is a huge part of our mental health, and once the physical connections were restored (hugs and handshakes are slowly becoming the norm again), it is Social Reconnection that most hunger for.

    Spending time with friends and family, catching up in the same physical space, drinks and dinner, walks in the park, laughter in person as opposed to over Zoom. Digital disconnect becomes desirable, real-world interactions aspirational.  As a society, social reconnection is a priority.

    This is a very positive mind and heart space, and if you are not taking advantage of this, using your brand as a conduit for reconnection, you are missing out.  Frame whatever you selling within the social reconnection space this summer.

    3. Memorable Shareable Experiences

    Most of us are prompted by Google Photos or Facebook, at various times or seasons, as to what we were doing ‘this time last year’.  Sadly, our memory/image banks have run somewhat dry over the past 18-months.  We are lacking in memories and their underlying experiences. We all remember the conversations with friends over the past year where we had nothing new to say, no new experiences to share, nothing to post on Instagram.

    Experiences are the foundation of memory. Experiences evoke an emotional response and it is those emotions that help code the memory. It thus follows that any positive experience we now have, one that evokes joy, delight, laughter and a feeling of belonging or freedom, will be remembered. The trick here is to ensure your brand or business is the conduit through which that experience was delivered. Linking our brands to an experience is key, as the brand then becomes coded with the positive memory.

    As brand owners we always seek to build brand loyalty, tribal following and customer lifetime value. With our customers seeking attachment and having such a strong desire for ‘experiential currency’ right now, we would be foolish not to capitalise and deliver on this value, particularly over summer months.

    4. From We to Me

    The Community value is one I have written about before, and one that was very evident throughout the pandemic. ‘We are all in this together’ until we are not. We are a tribal people and tend to work together in times of adversity. But when those times are over, there is a self-indulgence that remerges.

    We have all done what was asked of us by governments, our healthcare professionals and society at large. We stayed at home, we worked and went to school at home, we didn’t see family and friends, we didn’t go on vacation. We did what we were told for the greater good, for the WE.

    3D illustration of a magnifying glass over a paper bakground with focus on the word me. Concept of egocentrism

    Now it’s time for the ME. The Big Take Back is a very personal journey and one laden with self-indulgence. This is about what I deserve as an individual, what I desire. I want to indulge myself, reward myself, and nobody is going to tell me any different.

    Tap into this. Position your brand or business to support this sentiment this summer. Facilitate indulgence, make it all about them.

    5. Fuel my Empowerment

    Successful personal recovery comes about from a desire to succeed, a desire to want a new life. This is the much written about Empowerment value. Consumers right now are hugely empowered for their Big Take Back journey. They want their freedoms back, they want control over their lives again, they relish that feeling of empowerment.

    If you want to have your brand truly enter consumer heart space, you need to reflect and resonate this value with your customer. You need to give them this control, this feeling of achievement, that your brand and business can help them fulfil their desires.  Any marketing or product communication should all be looked at through a lens of empowerment.

    So, there you have it. Five values that are key to consumers this summer. If we can reflect these values back at consumers through our marketing communications and product proposition, we become a brand that is accompanying them on their recovery journey, a brand that facilitates it, that becomes a conduit for their positive experiences. We form emotional ties that otherwise may have taken years to achieve. Don’t let these opportunities for brand attachment pass you by.

    This blog contains material drawn from Ken Hughes’ latest keynote The Big Take Back: The Consumer Psychology of Recovery. Click here to read more and book this inspiring keynote for your next physical, virtual or hybrid event.

    Ken Hughes is now considered one of the World’s leading speakers on the subject of consumer values, organizational change, leadership and agility. His virtual and live in-person keynotes are famous for their high-energy, thought provoking content as well as their impactful and inspiring delivery.

    This blog was first featured on Ken Hughes’ website.

    Change Leadership: The Real HR Challenge 960 Change Leadership: The Real HR Challenge Mon, 26 Jul 2021 10:09:00 +0000 Celine Schillinger He had been desperately indifferent until that day, despite the increasing number of people involved in the internal change initiatives I’d kicked off, and the growing external recognition they triggered. I was hoping his interest and invitation to discuss would spark some collaborative effort to expand the change within the organization. Maybe we could talk with his team, go convince more functional managers, get creative together at scaling change… but no, he was just suggesting I leave and work for a more innovative organization.

    So much for talent retention and change leadership!

    With the Corona heath crisis hitting hard, and companies forced to dramatically evolve the way they work, I can’t help to wonder: how much better prepared would this organization be today, if they had leveraged then the human capital of innovation that they had, instead of stifling it? How many more opportunities are they wasting today?

    This, and many other episodes when HR acted deaf or seemed threatened by change initiatives, made me think deeply about sources of the problem. Talk about HR to most of my change leadership consultant friends, and the reaction is eye roll + “forget them”. But I don’t want to forget HR. They are (or could be) important actors of change.

    Among my 30-year work experience in various corporate environments, I have been an HR Director myself for a couple of years. One of my beloved sisters is an HR executive. I have vivid memories of fantastic HR leaders who have been role models, great business partners, mentors or even friends. Unfortunately, I have also come across countless mediocre or even toxic HR folks (may this post be helpful to you, ladies and gentlemen). They may not even realize how much damage they cause to people and organizations. But individual failures don’t really matter here, I want to look at the problem from a systemic perspective.

    And yes, I understand change is difficult for all, including the HR function. But there is a specific challenge with HR related to change and transformation, which I have come to perceive more and more clearly across my 10 years of work in people engagement and collective change leadership. The issue, my friends, is that despite all the good intentions of its people, and despite counting in its ranks some of the amazing professionals I mentioned previously – the HR Dept. too often acts as a barrier to culture change by reinforcing obsolete cultures rather than evolving them.

    Because they can’t, and also because they don’t want to.

    They hold onto certain beliefs that have served well in the past, shaped by decades of engineering thinking, but have become counterproductive and detrimental to change. Here are, in my views, 10 steps HR could take to really be at the forefront of change & improvement.

    1. Focus on groups rather than individuals.Agile collectives, networks, communities create today as much value, if not more, than “high potential” individuals and traditionally-structured groups (hierarchies, project teams, reporting lines). How do you take them into account, and provide HR enablement & support? Is your service shaped by your HR Information Systems architecture? If yes, what can you do to expand your awareness? (Hints: get involved in some communities yourself. Get active on your enterprise social network, and not just in the HR community group).
    2. Focus on people opportunities rather than people problems.Maybe because they are made to handle issues with people every day, some HR folks come to think that some people are the problem, untrustworthy and unmanageable. Not unlike some policing staff, whose worldview can be tainted by the violence they face more often than the average citizen. But if the focus is on “people problems”, you tend to miss the systemic issues from which they arose. Therefore, making it impossible to solve them. Keeping the big picture and sense of purpose top of mind creates more openness to people opportunities – which can be greatly enabled by HR and contribute to positive change.
    3. Actively expand knowledge of what could be different.The number of HR people I’ve met in Enterprise 2.0 events, Community Management conferences, Digital Innovation meetups over the years has been close to zero (close to one, I should say to be fair to the exceptional M.-P. Fleury) . It seems that most of them attend HR Conferences only (some of them don’t attend anything at all). Such a pity! If you are genuinely curious, equipped with knowledge, you are more open to new / different operating modes that come your way. You don’t dismiss newness as “impossible here” and are in a better position to help those who try.
    4. Experiment more.You can be on the conservative political spectrum, but just try not to be in how you work, because this isn’t helping. When HR actively uses new technology (not just HR tech, but connection technologies, cloud-based apps, ideation systems, social media etc.), it makes a difference. When HR understands that project management can be done better than in a traditional “think, design, deploy” way, it makes a difference. “But, wait, our profession is burdened by all sorts of constraints: confidentiality, unions, legal risks, etc.”  I hear you. So is ultra-regulated Quality, where I have contributed to an amazing, global culture change movement. When HR is not afraid to change themselves, they’re in a better position to inspire and promote organization-wide change.
    5. Focus on community members – and the frontline – rather than tops of pyramids.The traditional organization is made of a multiple of nested, small to big pyramids, each led by entry-level to senior managers, whom HR cares for. This hierarchy-first system maintains a system of hundreds, thousands of little bottlenecks. When I once promoted to my HR counterpart the fact that the Quality movement enabled, for the first time ever in this company, the emergence of amazing shopfloor talents, he burst: “But, we’re not here to detect shopfloor talent!”. Regrettable myopia. I’m not even talking from a social justice perspective. I talk from a performance perspective. It is just detrimental to organizational learning, sensing, adaptation – which, as we know, makes all the difference in complex systems.
    6. Build the courage muscle.It is not easy to resist your internal customers, managers who often have too much to lose from culture change and therefore don’t push for it. We saw with the MeToo movement how little HR was trusted to investigate harassment cases (often dismissed as invented, although research shows that this is rarely the case), support the victims, and address the issue as a systemic problem. Was is a lack of courage? A perception that status quo was in managers & HR’s best mutual interest? Another hypothesis is that HR people know too little about their peers’ professions to be able to challenge them. When you grow leaders in silos, and hyperspecialize jobs, rather than develop an organization of neogeneralists, that’s what happens.
    7. Evolve perceptions of what leadership truly is.This can only happen through your action and focus. If your focus is on leaders as positional leaders, i.e. people “with organizational authority over others”, you perpetuate a false image of leadership, tied to status and advantages, which boosts egos and competitive behaviors. Leadership is not a title but a set of behaviors and a capacity to influence. How do you identify and support these people?
    8. Reduce effort spent at rigidifying structures.I am amazed at how much energy is spent at making the HR discipline look like a hard science, through all sorts of means: frameworks, structures, classifications… A competency model will never trigger cultural change. It may have other usage (grading alignment, protection in case of a legal dispute…) but in most cases it is a useless communication artefact. Structuring HR output is a huge market that produces very little to no value to the actual business.A few years back, I was invited by awesome HR innovator John Sigmond to contribute to a top Think Tank on reinventing HR, populated by the HR leaders of some of the largest, most innovative US companies. What a disappointment for both of us. Several months of work ended up with yet an another set of frameworks focusing on “top talents”. How to explain that? Could this be a way to fight an inferiority complex against less messy, more predictable, harder disciplines? Going forward, in our more and more complex world, HR will definitely not prove its value through more structure. It can rather play a huge role by enabling the whole organization to embrace the unknown with greater flexibility.
    9. Resist the urge to follow trends.Why, why, why is everybody doing the same thing at the same time? These business trends are exhausting (but again, a huge market). When I joined the mainstream corporate world, everyone was copying Jack Welsh. Forced ranking here, 9-box there. It took many years to realize how loaded with negative consequences these practices were, when it would have taken a bit of judgment then (and listening to people) to avoid a costly mistake. Then another trend started, and we all went there. Six Sigma? Lean? Design Thinking? Agile? You name it. I’ll just wait for the next one, and the next one after. Instead of Panurge sheep following recipes, we need original thinkers who think and act in context, with people, about the work to be done.
    10. Think twice (or more) before cracking down on change agents.Yes, these people may be pebbles in their manager’s shoe. They may be less obedient. And you know what? They may see & know things that you don’t. Go talk with them. See how you can help, instead of prevent. They are your organization’s opportunity. It’s your HR opportunity to create alliances and help them turn their vision and energy into a positive contribution for their colleagues and for your customers.

    For HR professionals, these are all choices to be made, each day.

    For the HR function, being an actor of organizational and cultural change is an amazing opportunity. It is also its responsibility and it should be held accountable to it.

    What do you think? As an HR professional, or working in partnership with HR, what have you found that works? I’d love to hear from you on my social channels!

    Need support with engagement leadership, collective change, people-powered digital-enabled change? I’m happy to chat.

    This post was inspired by a recent HR Innovation event organized by Kongress Media GmbH. The header image is from Toni Reed on Unsplash.

    The 5 ways that Amazon is building a fantastic customer experience 960 The 5 ways that Amazon is building a fantastic customer experience Thu, 22 Jul 2021 07:30:00 +0000 Steven Van Belleghem Build a strong vision & stick to it

    In every Annual Report, Jeff Bezos wants a copy of his 1997 Letter to Shareholders attached. That’s the one in which he clarifies the Day 1 mentality that lies at source of Amazon’s success. It’s supposed to be both a culture as well as an operating model that puts customer obsession, a long term focus and permanent innovation at the centre of everything that the company does.

    This customer obsession and working backwards from their pain points to drive useful innovation has been the company’s North Star from the get go. Day 1 is about being constantly curious, nimble, and experimental. Asked about Day 2, Bezos once answered: “Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.” It’s this hypervigilance about staying true to the original vision that drove Amazon where it is today.

    Image source: Elements of Amazon’s Day 1 Culture, by Dan Slater, Worldwide Innovation Programs at AWS

    Enter new markets

    Building a strong vision and staying true to it definitely is not the same thing as staying true to your core. Because Amazon is notorious for venturing into new industries that have nothing to do with its original business of selling books.

    Long before it became fashionable to diversify your business and enter new markets, in 2002, Amazon launched on-demand cloud computing platforms and APIs via AWS. Few people believed that this was a good move back then. And yet, since 2017, AWS owns a dominant 33% of all cloud services. Its closest competitors are Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud who have 18%, and 9% respectively, according to Synergy Group.

    And since then, it has never been content to stay in its lane, launching services for payment (Amazon Pay, Amazon cash, Amazon Prime Visa), small business lending (Amazon lending), food delivery (in partnership with Olo), pharmaceuticals (acquiring PillPack), healthcare services for employees and family, media (Prime Video) and more.

    Make it invisible

    Amazon is always at war with friction. It understands that friction is the biggest enemy of its relationship with customer and does everything to eliminate it. So much so that the purchasing process almost becomes invisible.

    The examples here are legion. We all know its concept of one-click shopping, of which it even owns the trademark since 1999. The subscription model for repeat purchases like toiletries and diapers is another example. As are the Amazon Dash button (discontinued in 2019), Amazon Pay, voice-activated shopping on Alexa and the Amazon Go stores.

    Removing any type of friction is always the best way to improve the customer experience. That’s why I advise my customers to appoint “friction hunters” in their company. Watch this video where I explain the concept.

    Be everywhere

    Amazon is the absolute top example of the hybrid approach. It’s not just the “Everything Store”, it’s just as much the “Everywhere store” because that simply is where its customers are.

    Since Alexa, it’s become this always on, always available presence in many households, just a voice command away. But it doesn’t just want to be everywhere online. It just as much understands the power of offline contacts, entering the brick and mortar business with Amazon Bookstores, Amazon Go and the purchase of Whole Foods.

    Amazon also operates more than 175 fulfilment centres around the world in more than 150 million square feet of space, the majority located across North America and Europe. If you want to offer fast and cheap delivery, you need a lot of warehouses. No surprise that it’s currently heavily investing in adding more warehouses and growing its fleet of airplanes, trucks and vans. I only think that finding a sustainable balance here will be quite a challenge.

    Use storytelling to educate employees

    If anything, Amazon is a master at storytelling: true to its vision and strategy, it’s been known to find concepts that stick and then repeats them until every last employee, customer and partner knows about them.

    Instead of saying something generic like “we really care about customers”, it talks about Customer Obsession, the Day 1 mentality mentioned above and providing an empty chair for the customer in board meetings so that (s)he will always remain at the centre of every decision. It also seems to love powerful little lists like the Leadership Principles(featuring Customer Obsession at the top, obviously) or the 6 Customer Service Tenets (No surprise that “Relentlessly advocate for customers” is the first one). And let’s not forget about the “One Way Door – Two Way Door” decision making processes or the importance of keeping teams to the size of “Two Pizzas”.

    It’s great PR of course (there’s a reason why they are mentioned here) but above all, it’s about relentlessly repeating and engraining your company vision in the heads of employees so they feel, breathe and act according to them. If you want everyone in your company – especially if it’s a large one – to be on board with your vision of customer obsession, just use great storytelling. And keep repeating the stories over and over.

    So, that’s it. I hope that Amazon’s CX approach will be able to inspire you. And let me know if I forgot any important points.

    The awesome nexxworks podcast travel list 960 The awesome nexxworks podcast travel list Mon, 19 Jul 2021 08:34:00 +0000 Laurence Van Elegem Steven Van Belleghem - CX thought leader

    Quiet Service with General Stan McChrystal

    I love this episode because it's about optimism, positive leadership as well as the link between companies and the - seemingly - very different context of the army, where General Stanley McChrystal operates. The fact that Simon Sinek’s vision is thrown into the mix, only makes this episode all the more interesting. I highly recommend it.

    Peter Vander Auwera - tinkerer, creator, and sensebreaker

    Kent Bye (Voices of VR) on Truth, Reality, and the Human Experience (Part 1)

    I like Kent Bye and his podcast (and youtube) channel because his view on the VR and AR world - with respect to privacy for example - offers a glimpse on how we may have to rethink several concepts in the "classic" analog and social media world. It becomes obvious how the European Commission tries to solve problems of the past, and does not think through the day after tomorrow.

    Jessica Groopman - industry analyst & founder of Kaleido Insights

    Kate Raworth: A Renegade Solution to Extractive Economics

    Rarely does one come across a fundamentally new framework for global economics, environment, and social equity. "Doughnut Economics" is a most elegant, balanced, and critical alternative model to the runaway, extractive, and growth-obsessed economic logic gripping the globe. This podcast explores its implications for data and tech-- a must listen!

    Ezra Klein Show: Mark Bittman Cooked Everything, Now He Wants to Change Everything

    A meditation, and generally entertaining dialogue discussing food, and humanity's relationship with it, past-present-future. This conversation will make you reflect on our relationship with nature, and systems thinking.

    The Secret Life of Forests, by Ferris Jabr (with audio narration)

    Talk about unlearning a long held narrative! This beautiful piece takes the listener on a journey through forest ecosystems, revealing how new science (and new perspectives in science) debunk age-old biases around how nature, systems, and evolution actually work.

    Julie Vens - De Vos - CEO @nexxworks

    Rebecca Henderson on Reimagining Capitalism

    I really loved economist Rebecca Henderson’s book “Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire”. She argues that the focus on shareholder value threatens to destroy capitalism from within. In this episode, she tells business leaders to manage their companies differently in order to create a more humane and stable capitalism.

    The discussion about value is highly relevant and one I love to have with our nexxworks customers: how do we define value? How do we define our shared desired future?

    April Rinne - digital, platform and sharing economy expert

    Ezra Klein & James Suzman: Why Do We Work So Damn Much?

    Here is a brilliant podcast interview by Ezra Klein of James Suzman, author of the new book “Work: A Deep History From the Stone Age to the Age of Robots." The episode focuses mainly on how our obsession with work has gone wildly off the mark, which reminds me of multiple Flux Superpowers (Run Slower and Know Your "Enough" among them). Here's what James says about change -- he perfectly summarizes FLUX and the importance of a Flux Mindset: "We now live in an era in which there is no steady state for us to adjust to. There is no end game in front of us. And that requires an adjustment in our mindset, and how we engage with the world."

    Barry O'Reilly - Business Advisor and Author of "Unlearn", and "Lean Enterprise”

    Jason Calacanis: Intelligent Risk

    Angel investor Jason Calacanis talks high stakes poker, how to make intelligent investing decisions, how systems enable or forbid, and demystifies the culture of Silicon Valley.

    Fredo De Smet - curator at the interplay of culture and technology

    Tim Ferriss and Brené Brown on Self-Acceptance and Complacency

    A great talk about self-confrontation, useful for entrepreneurship, relationships or on a personal level. It contains useful life hacks to be kinder to yourself.

    The Tribe VS The Algorithm: Can We Ever Be Free Again? (with Douglas Rushkoff)

    A fascinating episode about the value of human awe versus the zombie apocalypse mode of the market.

    How quantum physics disrupts our world view (in Dutch)

    This one’s for Dutch listeners only, unfortunately, but I loved this conversation with Bernardo Kastrup so much that I had to include it. The philosophical and spiritual complication of quantum physics will definitely disrupt your world view.

    Laurence Van Elegem - Content Director @ nexxworks

    Superintelligence Already Rules the World

    David Runciman reframes artificial intelligence in a surprising way, claiming that artificial decision-making machines have been with us for hundreds of years already: namely the corporations and states that hugely accelerated the development of our societies. I love it when people turn my perspective around.

    Why Cities Keep on Growing, Corporations Always Die, and Life Gets Faster

    As organisms, cities, and companies scale up, they all gain in efficiency, but then they vary. The bigger an organism, the slower. The same tends to go for corporations. Yet the bigger a city is, the faster it runs. It’s fascinating to realize that human ‘living’ structures and their business structures evolve very differently when they grow. Fascinating talk by Geoffrey West:

    Ken Hughes - CX strategist

    Dr. Marc Brackett and Brené Brown on “Permission to Feel”

    We spend too much time in our heads and not enough time in our hearts. If we are serious about good CX, then we need to encourage more Emotional Intelligence in ourselves and those around us and in CX teams. Brene Brown is a key voice in this space, and in this episode she chats to Dr. Marc Brackett about heart, emotions and relationships. Trust me, you'll learn more about yourself and how healthy CX is based on heart over mind by listening:

    Nancy Rademaker - keynote speaker on all things digital

    Jennifer Aaker en Naomi Bagdonas: Future of StoryTelling

    I’m a huge fan of Jennifer Aaker’s and Naomi Bagdonas’ book “Humour, seriously?” and this podcast episode is a great teaser and summary. It’s about the importance of humor in business life as well as in our personal lives.

    Christophe Jauquet - keynote speaker and health experience expert

    Kerry Murphy & Lianne Piroddi: Fashion’s Digital Future

    I was amazed to discover that digital clothing is such a mega big billion business flying under the/my radar. It made me realise that teenagers are no longer the early adopters that drive societal change and business innovation. Today, kids are the driving force of plenty of mega societal changes that are happening right under our (virtual) nose.

    Alastair Parvin: Architecture for the people by the people

    From the many times the Kodak case was explained, we all knew very well how production will be democratised. Already in 2013, It’s was easy to imagine this for activities like music producing and book writing/publishing. It’s a lot more difficult to imagine how architecture can be disrupted by this trend.

    Philipp Kristian - Human Transformation Pioneer

    Rapid Response: Why business must be a force for good, w/former American Express CEO Ken Chenault

    Not everyone believes businesses can be doing good and managing a good business at the same time. Iconic global organisations leading by example are finally telling that story, and demonstrating that mutual trust with customers and stakeholders isn’t simply the best way to emerge beyond a crisis like the pandemic, but a RESET that the corporate world truly needs to be innovating and thriving in future.

    Laetitia Vitaud - writer and speaker about the future of work and consumption

    Virginia Postrel on Textiles and the Fabric of Civilization

    I loved this episode because you get to understand that the history of textiles, as told by Postrel, is a good way of understanding the history of the world:

    The Art of Productive Disagreements

    I also enjoyed this episode with writer Ian Leslie about the "art of productive disagreements". It's clever. You come out of it thinking you should not avoid conflicts anymore.

    Let Children Play Video Games

    Another one for the road: a conversation with Rachel Kowert about video games. There's so much nonsense written and said about video games. This psychologist will convince sceptics to try them.

    Eline Lostrie - CCO @ nexxworks

    Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify — Habits, Systems and Mental Models for Top Performance

    Adam Grant: Rethinking Your Position

    Celebrated organizational psychologist and author Adam Grant provides compelling insight into why we should spend time not just thinking, but rethinking. The episode covers how to change our own views, how to change the views of others, hiring processes, psychological safety, tribes and group identity, feigned knowledge, binary bias, and so much more.

    Carlo D'Agnolo - Digital Marketeer @ nexxworks

    Is The World REALLY Ready To Go Electric?

    What I liked about this episode is that they also focus on the infrastructure rather than on the cars themselves. They’ve invited the Chief Vehicle Offer of GridServe along. If you wonder what a Chief Vehicle Officer does, this is his jobdescription: “Job Description? Electrification of the Nation. That should just about cover it.”

    Maybe also important to note that his is a podcast from a famous car-YouTuber, so it’s not the opinion of a traditional media or journalist’s, rather one of a true petrol-head.

    France Van Nieuwenborgh - Innovation Program Manager @ nexxworks

    The Butterfly Effect Ep. 1: A Nondescript Building in Montreal

    This podcast teaches us about the origins of pornhub. This first episode explains how it actually is a hardcore tech company and how it uses technology and data to offer better services. I loved it because it goes against the grain of what people think and shows us that the porn industry is actually a big driver of innovation. Most porn in the world is made in California's San Fernando Valley where you can find a community making business out of tailor-made porn for an audience existing of one. It’s the perfect podcast to start researching for nexxworks' Customer Experience tour to Los Angeles (more info here)!

    And here is the full list of awesomeness!

    For those who don’t want any explanation with each episode and just want to experience the awesomeness of this compilation in a non-stop fashion (well, it’s 19 hours and 43 minutes, so you’ll probably need some breaks): here is the full list on Spotify (some episodes were not available on Spotify so they arent’s all there, but most of them are):

    E-book: The Catalyst Innovator’s Guide To Thriving In An Uncertain World 960 E-book: The Catalyst Innovator’s Guide To Thriving In An Uncertain World Sun, 18 Jul 2021 15:32:00 +0000 Catalyst Constellations

    As the global pandemic spread around the world at an alarming rate at the beginning of 2020, businesses were forced to grapple with a massively volatile and uncertain new reality. Employers had to pivot in an instant to find new ways to keep their workforce engaged and productive, while the employees themselves were dealing with a type of collective trauma the world hadn’t experienced in generations. Companies also had to reimagine how they engaged with customers…if their customers remained at all.

    This e-book by Shannon Lucas and Tracey Lovejoy of Catalyst Constellations is a collection of stories from different countries and industries that demonstrate how companies were able to adapt to survive, even thrive in such complex and harsh conditions. 

    The red thread running through all of these innovation cases is that organizations that thrived leveraged one or more of the following 3 approaches: 

    • Future-proof: Investing ahead of time to lay the foundation for a VUCA ready culture which allowed rapid response to and the ability to thrive through the pandemic.
    • Adaptative: Rapidly embracing cultural change as the pandemic unfolded which allowed the organizations to adapt.
    • Responsive: Supporting their Catalyst innovators, when they told them it was time to trigger one of their bold new business ideas which helped shift parts of the business.

    Above all, this collection shows you how you can ready your organization for the next disruption on the horizon.

    Get your shot of inspiration and download it below. 👇👇👇

    5 times when technology pushed corporate innovation 960 5 times when technology pushed corporate innovation Tue, 13 Jul 2021 12:36:00 +0000 Eline Lostrie Walmart

    Artificial intelligence is set to change a range of industries, and one of those is retail. So no surprise that retail giant Walmart is experimenting heavily with AI. It for example opened a “store of the future”, that is largely AI-powered. It’s open to the public, which allows them to test the technology with actual customers. One key element here is that the store is filled with cameras that use AI algorithms to detect what is happening. When someone takes a product from the shelves, for example, it’s automatically registered. But in contrast to Amazon’s supermarkets this feature isn’t used for automatic check-out, the store has traditional counters. AI checks if products are in stock, if caddies are available and if lines are forming at the check-out. The goal isn’t to replace workers, but to have them focus more on customer service.

    AI is also helping the transition to online retail. During the pandemic Walmart rolled out a feature where customers could receive a two-hour express delivery. This super-fast service is coordinated behind-the-scenes by AI. It constantly determines if customers are eligible for two-hour delivery, based on the real-time locations of delivery drivers and inventories of local stores. The technology then helps inventory workers to quickly put together orders, so they can arrive as fast as possible.


    Whereas 4G was focused on smartphones and telecom operators, 5G is much more about B2B applications and industry 4.0. A trend German industrial player Bosch is heavily investing in.

    The company bought their own wireless spectrum in Germany, and wants to deploy 5G in 250 factories worldwide. With it they support applications such as autonomous transport systems, connected machines and industrial IoT. Using these technologies they make their own operations more efficient, but also develop products they can in turn sell to other companies. 5G is transforming Bosch from an industrial company into a key industry 4.0 player.


    Lego may not sound like a technological powerhouse, but the toy manufacturer is increasingly incorporating innovative technologies into its products. One area in which they are now investing is augmented reality.

    The Danish corporate has already released lego-sets with an integrated AR app. The physical sets can be combined with an AR smartphone-app to show a deeper, hidden story happening, in this case a world haunted by ghosts. It’s really pushing storytelling to a whole new level with this online-meets-offline combination. This experiment is now being applied beyond just individual sets. In the Lego AR-studio, consumers can scan the most popular Lego sets, and play with them in a virtual environment. Kids can even make movies through the app. This way the sets become more open-ended, and the decades-old toy concept keeps up in an increasingly digital world.


    Shipping supply chains are a very complex administrative cluster. Paper documents are often needed, and cargo is handed off between dozens of sometimes competing companies. This makes it the ideal case for blockchain, which Danish shipping giant Maersk has now clearly recognised.

    Together with IBM they have set up a blockchain-service through which companies in the shipping chain can digitally share information about cargo. Started in 2018, it has already tracked 42 million container shipments and digitised 20 million documents. Blockchain in this way pushes a paper-based, legacy industry to go digital.


    Electric car innovation isn’t just coming from challengers like Tesla anymore. It’s also coming from unlikely places, like Volkswagen Group. This is the same group that in 2015 was caught up in the Dieselgate scandal, where they manipulated emission statistics for their combustion engines. Since then, however, they seem to have made an about-face, and started heavily investing in electric vehicles.

    Electric engines are rapidly improving, and provide a number of advantages compared to combustion engines, such as less maintenance, besides of course a reduction in emissions. This is forcing legacy car-makers to change. Over the next five years Volkswagen Group wants to invest 73 billion euros in electric vehicle technologies. That’s more than double the entire Tesla revenue in 2020. In 2021 they announced new battery designs which would reduce costs by 50%. And by the middle of the 2020ies the German group wants to introduce high-tech solid-state batteries.

    How investors and entrepreneurs can successfully play the forecasting game 960 How investors and entrepreneurs can successfully play the forecasting game Thu, 08 Jul 2021 08:01:00 +0000 ​BusinessThink Creative Commons The Future Of Work Is The Human Capital Era: How We Got Here 960 The Future Of Work Is The Human Capital Era: How We Got Here Thu, 01 Jul 2021 08:00:30 +0000 Guest contributor Heather E. Mc Gowan Zoom Out: Historic Trends Are Illuminating

    For a while now, I have been referring to our entry into the post pandemic time period as an inflection point. Perhaps it is the way the pandemic has compressed time, accelerating our transformation to digital, or the way it held us in prolonged uncertainty. I decided to dig deeper and consider what economists, sociologists, and philosophers noted about the past and what it might mean to the changing nature of the future of work.  Robert Putnam’s latest book,  The Upswing, maps our 100+ year journey only to return to the income inequality and political polarization of the 1920s. Putnam refers to these remarkably congruent curves of economics, politics, society, and culture trends as the “I to We to I” continuum. Putnam contends that we pulled out of this spiral before and this may be the moment when we do again.  Putnam approaches this inflection point as a sociologist and political scientist. Others have observed similar arcs, trends or cycles, notably the work of economist and historian Neil Howe in collaboration with the late William Strause in their seminial 1997 book The Fourth Turning: What Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendevous with History.

    In this book, Strause and Howe, infamous for coining the term “millennial”, offer us a historic view of multiple centuries worth of eighty year cycles each with four distinct “turns”. The most recent cycle began with the “high" phase, starting with the ending of WW2 and ending when Kennedy was shot. The next turn was the “awakening" with the 60s civil rights struggles. The 3rd turn was “unraveling" and division of the 90s (when the book was written). At that point, they predicted a pending “crisis" even identifying 2020 as the end of the unraveling with a major crisis that would lead to a new “high” turn of shared purpose. Prior crisis turns include the American Revolution, the Civil War, WW2 and the Great Depression. Additionally, historians have noted that the bubonic plague unleashed the renaissance while WW1 and the 1918 flu were followed by the roaring twenties. Following the breakthroughs demonstrated by the vaccine development, this pandemic may just unleash a period of unprecedented discovery and scientific advancement, but I think it may be something even more profound.

    Upswing (Putnam) and The Fourth Turning (Strausse- Howe) both point to an inflection point. THE UPSWING AND THE FOURTH TURNING

    Humans as a Cost To Contain, Even as Humans Increasingly Create Value

    In late 2019 the Business Roundtable  declared the end of the Shareholder Value Era. Business education from the 1980s to late 2019 preached that business existed to return profits to shareholders and investors at all costs. Many of those “costs” were humans which was reasonable in the 1970s as most human work was in contribution to production of physical asssets. Recent data from Aon shows that in 1975 tangible, physical assets comprised 84% of enterprise value on the S&P 500, while only 17% of that value was intangible, notably human capital.

    The source of value creation has inverted from tangible/physical capital to intangible/human capital ... [+] HUMAN CAPITAL ERA

    By the end of 2018, these categories had flipped and intangible assets comprised 84% of all value. Missing this shift not only created income inequality, it also squandered human and economic potential. While the stock market soared, our actual return on assets declined by 75% since 1965, according to research by Deloitte’s John Hagel.

    Return on Assets of US Firms JOHN HAGEL/DELOITTE

    Short-Term Self Interest Over Long-Term Shared Interest

    As Friedman’s Shareholder Value thesis took root, short-term, zero-sum thinking began to emerge. Taxes, for example, were derided when they didn’t support our direct interests, like our children’s schooling. We began to view efforts to reduce poverty or invest in racial minorities as reappropriation, rather than community and economic investment. Author Heather McGhee makes this point in her recent book, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, in her observation of policy of the public swimming pool. Beginning in the 1950s in the US, after decades of expanded investment in shared assets, we chose to close public swimming pools rather than racially integrate them. In short, we cut off access to public assets, denying everyone instead of providing common public goods.

    In the Human Capital Era, Income Inequality Depresses Economic Growth

    Investing in people, especially as our economy shifts, is not a new idea. In the International Monetary Fund article “More or Less”, author Branco Milanovic noted a decade ago (2011), “The main reason for this shift (towards concern about income inequality as depressor of economic growth) is the increasing importance of human capital in development. When physical capital mattered most, savings and investments were key. Then it was important to have a large contingent of rich people who could save a greater proportion of their income than the poor and invest it in physical capital. But now that human capital is scarcer than machines, widespread education has become the secret to growth. And broadly accessible education is difficult to achieve unless a society has a relatively even income distribution. Moreover, widespread education not only demands relatively even income distribution but, in a virtuous circle, reproduces it as it reduces income gaps between skilled and unskilled labor.” JP Morgan Chase, CEO Jamie Dimon, made a similar observation in his 2021 shareholder letter“(income inequality) could easily have been a 1% drag on our growth rate. This is the new normal – and it does not need to be this way.”

    Poverty Makes Us All Poor

    In 2019, well before the pandemic amplified the division between the haves and have nots, Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce found that “a child from the bottom quartile of socioeconomic status who has high test scores in kindergarten has only a 3 in 10 chance of having a college education and a good entry-level job as a young adult, compared to a 7 in 10 chance for a child in the top quartile of socioeconomic status who has low test scores.” In other words, you are better off born rich than smart. The pandemic has exacerbated this inequity, further destroying our potential.

    From Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce: Born to Win, Schooled to Lose BETTER OFF BORN RICH THAN SMART

    Racism is Expensive

    Research at Citi, The Cost of Black Inequality in the US, found that, If racial gaps for Blacks had been closed 20 years ago, U.S. GDP could have benefitted by an estimated $16 trillion. If we close gaps today, the equivalent add to the U.S. economy over the next five years could be $5 trillion of additional GDP, or an average add of 0.35 percentage points to U.S. GDP growth per year and 0.09 percentage points to global GDP growth per year.

    Working Moms Grew the Middle Class, The Pandemic Pushed Moms Out

    As the pandemic dragged on, childcare in the home disproportionately fell to women resulting in women leaving the workforce to care for their families. Nearly 3 million women left the workforce in 2020, causing the labor force participation rate for women to fall to a 33 year low. Again, this is an economic issue; according to research by the Brookings Institution, “Without the increasing participation of women in the workforce, household income growth of the middle class would have remained largely stagnant since the late 1970’s.” Even without gender pay equality—the gains we have made were thanks to women and now we are hemorrhaging women from the work force. Women who have left the workforce to aid their children’s education are facing the reality that the learning losses incurred this past year may cost some young people as much as 3% of their income over their lifetime. The herculean effort by these working moms (and dads) is finally being recognized as LinkedIn recently added “Stay-at-home Mom” to their vocational description options.

    Loss of Social Mobility

    Now, place all three of those studies in the context provided by Harvard economist Raj Chetty whose Equality of Opportunity Project quantifies social mobility in the US. If opportunity for low income and Black children is already at a deficit, it is only getting worse when you see the broader trend lines. If you were born in 1940, Chetty’s data shows, you had a 90% chance of doing better than your parents. If you were born in 1980 those chances dropped to 50%. Doing better than your parents is good for all of us. When you do better than your parents you become a higher paying taxpayer, fueling our economy with your spending and our collective investment through taxes in our common future. We have untold numbers of lost Einsteins, as Chetty calls those who have been left behind by inequality. We cannot afford this.

    When inequality is high, we loose mobility, which means we stop producing new high income tax ... [+] WHEN INEQUALITY IS HIGH, MOBILITY SUFFERS

    The Inflection Point

    I have been writing this blog post for several months unable to decide how to condense and synthesize considerable research and converging data points that suggest to me this inflection point. As a belligerent optimist who works in the lemonade business, I believe we are on the cusp of considerable change that could, if we are intentional and insisistent, finally unleash our collective human potential. In the next installment, I will begin to map out where I think we go from here.

    This piece was first featured on Forbes.

    PODCAST: Radar - by nexxworks June 2021 960 PODCAST: Radar - by nexxworks June 2021 Tue, 29 Jun 2021 05:27:00 +0000 We have lots of exciting news for you in this month’s episode of Radar - by nexxworks, the last of this season. We talked about the future of education, a new partnership between Proximus and Belfius, slow banking, Apple employees pushing back against returning to the office, the $250 billion US bill approved in the Senate to counter China, JD's shopping festival 6.18, China’s "lying flat movement", the creator economy and China squeezing bitcoin mining.

    Hope you enjoy this episode and please be so kind as to share it, rate us or follow our channel, if you like what you hear:

    If you prefer to listen on Apple Podcasts, you can do that here.

    Hungry for more insights? Check our awesome collection of e-books by Peter Hinssen, Pascal Coppens, Rik Vera, Steven Van Belleghem, Laurence Van Elegem and many more:

    How To Drive Employee Engagement At Work 960 How To Drive Employee Engagement At Work Tue, 22 Jun 2021 08:01:07 +0000 Guest contributor David Burkus At the same time, in the more than 30 years since leaders have been focused on employee engagement, not all that much has changed in most organizations. Every year brings a new report on the state of employee engagement across all industries and countries. And every year the number stays basically flat. Worldwide, only around 20 percent of employees report being fully engaged in their jobs. In the United States, it’s a slightly better 30 percent.

    And perhaps one of the reasons employee engagement has stayed so low is that organizations are approaching employee engagement all wrong. Most organizations attempt to boost their engagement numbers by focusing on perks, benefits, or other elements of the experience of being at the office. But employees usually don’t take a terrible job and try to make it more tolerable by adding perks.

    Just because you have a foosball table at the office doesn’t mean you’re an engaging workplace.

    Instead, employees engage in a process first discovered by Amy Wrzesniewski and Jane Dutton called job crafting. They found that, even in mundane jobs, some employees take deliberate steps to “craft” their job by making subtle, yet specific changes to their everyday work.

    So, when employees take it upon themselves to be engaged at work, they change the job. But when organizations try to get their employees more engaged…they relax the dress code or install a keg in the breakroom.

    Why not mimic the process employees use to make their jobs less terrible and, in doing so, make everyone’s jobs less terrible?

    So, in the article, we’ll cover the three elements of job crafting that employees engage in and provide ways for organizational leaders to leverage those elements and drive employee engagement at work.

    Task Crafting

    The first method to drive employee engagement at work is task crafting. Task crafting involves altering the type, scope, sequence, or number of tasks that make up a job in order to make it more meaningful and engaging. In one of their studies Wrzesniewski and Dutton cite the example of a hospital janitor who took it upon himself to change the arrangement of plants in the rooms of patients just to provide a little variety. Floral arranging isn’t usually in the job description of a janitor, but since it made that janitor feel like a part of patient care, he happily added it to his tasks.

    One of the simplest ways for organizations to scale task crafting is to add novelty to more roles. That’s one of the secrets to how Pal’s Sudden Service has increased engagement and dramatically lowered employee turnover. Pal’s is a fast-food restaurant—an industry known for mundane tasks and high turnover. But to keep employees engaged, Pal’s invests in around 135 hours of training per employee so that each team member is trained on nearly every job in the restaurant. And that matters because employees rotate to different jobs frequently. In fact, most employees don’t know what “job” they’ll be doing until they arrive for each shift and that novelty helps keep them more engaged.

    As a leader, think about the ways you could introduce more novelty into the tasks your team is charged with accomplishing or how you can give people a greater say in what tasks they choose to accomplish and you can drive engagement through task crafting.

    Relationship Crafting

    The next method to drive employee engagement at work is relationship crafting. Relationship crafting involves altering who employees interact with during their work. This is done both so that the number of people they see increases, but also so that who they see changes—usually so that they get to see the direct beneficiaries of their work more often. In organizational psychology, getting to know the direct beneficiaries of one’s work is often called task significance. And task significance has a powerful effect on individual motivation.

    One study, conducted in a cafeteria, measured the level of food satisfaction from diners and then changed the interior design of the cafeteria. Specifically, a window was added between the kitchen and the dining areas so that cooks could observe diners eating the meals they’d just prepared. When researchers compared the level of satisfaction scores before and after, they found that diners were 10 percent more satisfied after the window was installed. In other words, cooks cooked 10 percent more enjoyable food when they knew who they were cooking for.

    As a leader, think about the ways you can connect the tasks your team is charged with to the direct beneficiaries of their work. This could be by scheduling more frequent interactions with customers or even by creating more frequent interactions with other teams inside the organization who benefit from the work being done by your team.

    Cognitive Crafting

    The final method to drive employee engagement at work is cognitive crafting. Cognitive crafting involves altering the way employees interpret the tasks they’re doing and the reasons behind those tasks. It’s reframing the purpose behind the work, or in some cases revealing that purpose for the first time.

    One of the best examples of large-scale cognitive crafting happened a few years ago at international accounting firm KPMG. The leaders at KPMG were struggling to find ways to increase employee satisfaction and engagement—and perks and benefits had reached a diminished return on investment. So, the company launched two back-to-back initiatives to help employees rethink the purpose of their work. The first, called “We Shape History,” answered the question of “What do we do at KPMG?” by telling the stories of how the firm was involved at pivotal moments in world history like the South African election of Nelson Mandela or the Lend-Lease Act during World War II. The second initiative asked employees to come up with their own answer to the question—challenging them to rethink how their work was shaping history.

    They called that initiative the “10,000 Stories Challenge,” but by the end, they’d received 42,000. Most significantly, KPMG found that the two initiatives drove engagement and job satisfaction dramatically but only in employees whose managers talked regularly about the impact of the work they were doing.

    As a leader, think about the purpose and meaning behind the tasks your team is assigned to, and how you can talk about that purpose more often and show that purpose more clearly. Doing so will drive employee engagement through cognitive crafting.

    According to Wrzesniewski and Dutton, job crafting is something around one-third of all employees do in order to drive their own engagement at work. But when you look at the three elements of job crafting, it’s clear that many organizations are still not doing the same thing at scale. And that’s likely why, despite 30 years of understanding the importance of employee engagement at work, the number of engaged employees is still flat. But it doesn’t have to stay flat, as a leader you can guide your team through task crafting, relationship crafting, and/or cognitive crafting with or without an organization-wide effort. And in doing so, you’ll drive employee engagement up and you might just find your team starts doing its best work ever.

    If you want to learn even more about the future of remote work and how to lead your team from wherever you are, check out my new book Leading From Anywhere.


    15 Must-Read Books About Customer Experience 960 15 Must-Read Books About Customer Experience Wed, 16 Jun 2021 07:10:00 +0000 Steven Van Belleghem Invent and Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos – Walter Isaacson and Jeff Bezos

    Few companies are as obsessed by customer experience as Amazon. Which is why the collected writings of Jeff Bezos – from his unique annual shareholder letters to numerous speeches and interviews – that gather his core principles and philosophy are a gold mine for CX leaders.

    These are just a few of its inspiring insights:

    • The importance of a Day 1 mindset
    • Why “it’s all about the long term”
    • What it really means to be customer obsessed
    • How to start new businesses and create significant organic growth in an already successful company
    • Why culture is an imperative
    • How a willingness to fail is closely connected to innovation
    • What the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us

    The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google – Scott Galloway

    But companies like Amazon also excel at mythologizing their own story. Bezos might talk about the importance of culture for customer obsession, but we have all also heard about the disastrous conditions under which Amazon warehouse workers operate.

    Galloway’s book is the perfect counterbalance for this mythologizing. He asks both fundamental and highly critical questions about the power and staggering success of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google and deconstructs the strategies of the Four that lurk beneath their shiny veneers. He shows how they manipulate the fundamental emotional needs that have driven us since our ancestors lived in caves, at a speed and scope others can’t match. And he reveals how you can apply the lessons of their ascent to your own business or career. Because whether you want to compete with them, do business with them, or simply live in the world they dominate, you need to understand the Four.

    Delivering Happiness – Tony Hsieh

    This ultimate CX classic from 2010 tells the story of Tony Hsieh and his company Zappos. It’s about how thinking long term and following your passions first can lead to not just profits, but a happy life for you, your employees, and customers.

    The core of Hsieh’s book is that both company culture and customer service are the keys to a successful business. Everyone is looking for happiness in life which is why a company can be successful by finding ways to make its employees, customers, and partners happy. This is achieved through extraordinary customer service and a company culture that is unique, one that employees believe in.

    In case you missed it, I made a video with the 5 CX lessons that I learned from Tony Hsieh, when he passed away much too soon at the age of 46:

    This is marketing – Seth Godin

    I had the honour of talking with Seth Godin at the UBA Trends Day very recently (Check the recap that Peter Hinssen and I made here) and yet again, he proved that he is a god amongst men when it comes to branding, storytelling, marketing and customer experience. In ‘This is Marketing’, he offers the core of his marketing wisdom in one compact and very accessible package.

    Great marketers don’t use consumers to solve their company’s problem; they use marketing to solve other people’s problems. Their tactics rely on empathy, connection, and emotional labor instead of attention-stealing ads and spammy email funnels.

    Here are some of its core insights:

    • How to build trust and permission with your target market.
    • The art of positioning–deciding not only who it’s for, but who it’s not for.
    • Why the best way to achieve your goals is to help others become who they want to be.
    • Why the old approaches to advertising and branding no longer work.
    • The surprising role of tension in any decision to buy (or not).
    • How marketing is at its core about the stories we tell ourselves about our social status.

    The Customer of the Future: 10 Guiding Principles for Winning Tomorrow’s Business – Blake Morgan

    Blake Morgan is one of the most renowned customer experience futurists and one of the top speakers at my company nexxworks’ Mission CX program. In The Customer of the Future, she outlines ten easy-to-follow customer experience guidelines that integrate emerging technologies with effective strategies to combat disconnected processes, silo mentalities, and a lack of buyer perspective.

    Tomorrow’s customers will insist on experiences that make their lives significantly easier and better. Companies will win their business not by just proclaiming that customer experience is a priority but by embedding a customer focus into every aspect of their operations. They’ll understand how emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and analytics are changing the game and craft a strategy to integrate them into their products and processes.

    The Nordstrom Way to Customer Experience Excellence – Robert Spector, breAnne O. Reeves

    This one is a true classic, but it has a fully revised and updated edition from 2017. Its authors explore the core values of the culture that have made Nordstrom synonymous with legendary customer service. These essential values have enabled Nordstrom to survive and adapt to dramatic market shifts regularly since 1901. It is a book about how underlying values such as respect, trust, compensation and, even fun, are the building blocks of a culture where employees are empowered to consistently deliver a world-class experience to customers.

    Nordstrom believes that the employee experience determines the customer experience, and that when you attract and reward people who are comfortable in a service-oriented culture, then everyone succeeds – both individually and collectively. No wonder Nordstrom is one of only five companies to make Fortune’s “Best Companies to Work For” and “Most Admired” lists every year since those surveys have been taken.

    Friction – The Untapped Force That Can Be Your Most Powerful Advantage Hardcover – Roger Dooley

    Annually, $4.6 trillion of merchandise is left in abandoned e-commerce shopping carts. Every year, the U.S. economy loses $3 trillion dollars in productivity due to excess bureaucracy. Red tape and over-complicated licenses have contributed to China’s GDP exceeding India’s by $82 trillion over the span of just three decades. These statistics are the stuff of nightmares for business leaders. According to science-based marketing and business expert Roger Dooley, they illustrate the real and growing threat of “friction,” which he defines as “the unnecessary expenditure of time, effort, or money in performing a task”.

    In today’s high-speed, customer-empowered world, the levels of speed and efficiency of business transactions will determine ultimate success or failure. In his book, Dooley writes about the inevitable points of friction in an organization, and he provides the tools and insight needed to eliminate them. Friction takes the reader step-by-step through the process of:

    • Empowering frank conversations
    • Guiding individual and team behaviors
    • Getting ahead of friction
    • Optimizing the customer experience
    • Building a frictionless corporate culture

    The Apple Experience: Secrets to Building Insanely Great Customer Loyalty – Carmine Gallo

    In The Apple Experience, internationally bestselling author Carmine Gallo details the principles and practices behind this total commitment to the customer and explains how a brand can achieve outstanding results by delivering this same high standard of service.

    Carmine Gallo interviewed professionals at all levels who have studied Apple, and he spent hundreds of hours observing the selling floor in Apple’s retail space and learning about Apple’s vision and philosophy. Using insights and data from these sources, he breaks down Apple’s customer centric model to provide an action plan with three distinct areas of focus:

    • Inspire Your Internal Customerwith training, support, and communications that create a “feedback loop” for improving performance at every level
    • Serve Your External Customerwith irresistible brand stories and dedicated salespeople who embody the APPLE five steps of service– Approach, Probe, Present, Listen, End with a fond farewell
    • Set the Stageby ensuring that no element is overlooked in creating an immersive retail environment where customers can see, touch, and learn about your products

    User Friendly: How the Hidden Rules of Design are Changing the Way We Live, Work & Play – Cliff Kuang and Robert Fabricant

    It seems like magic when some new gadget seems to know what we want before we know ourselves. But why does some design feel intrinsically good, and why do some designs last forever, while others disappear?

    User Friendly guides readers through the hidden rules governing how design shapes our behaviour, told through fascinating stories such as what the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island reveals about the logic of the smartphone; how the pressures of the Great Depression and World War II created our faith in social progress through better product design; and how a failed vision for Disney World yielded a new paradigm for designed experience.

    Building For Everyone: Expand Your Market With Design Practices From Google’s Product Inclusion Team – Annie Jean-Baptiste

    Establishing diverse and inclusive organizations is an economic imperative for every industry. Any business that isn’t reaching a diverse market is missing out on enormous revenue potential and the opportunity to build products that suit their users’ core needs.

    The economic “why” has been firmly established, but what about the “how?” How can business leaders adapt to our ever-more-diverse world by capturing market share AND building more inclusive products for people of color, women and other underrepresented groups? The Product Inclusion Team at Google has developed strategies to do just that and Building For Everyone is the practical guide to following in their footsteps.

    Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers Kindle Edition – Jay Baer

    The near-universal adoption of smartphones and social media has fundamentally altered the science of complaints. Critics (“haters”) can now express their displeasure faster and more pub­licly than ever. These trends have resulted in an overall increase in complaints and a belief by many businesses that they have to “pick their spots” when choosing to answer criticisms. Bestselling author Jay Baer shows why that approach is a major mistake. Based on an exten­sive proprietary study of how, where, and why we complain, Hug Your Haters proves that there are two types of complainers, each with very differ­ent motivations:

    • Offstage haters. These people simply want solutions to their problems. They complain via legacy channels where the likelihood of a response is highest—phone, e-mail, and company websites. Offstage haters don’t care if anyone else finds out, as long as they get answers.
    • Onstage haters. These people are often disappointed by a substandard interaction via traditional channels, so they turn to indirect venues, such as social media, online review sites, and discussion boards. Onstage haters want more than solutions—they want an audience to share their righteous indignation.

    Hug Your Haters shows exactly how to deal with both groups, drawing on meticulously researched case studies from businesses of all types and sizes from around the world.

    The Airbnb Way: 5 Leadership Lessons for Igniting Growth Through Loyalty, Community, and Belonging – Joseph A. Michelli

    Over the past decade, Michelli has guided businesses in human experience transformation and has revealed how Starbucks, Zappos, Mercedes, and other top companies design and execute the strategies that made them the undisputed leaders of their industries. In this book, he turns his attention to major disrupter, Airbnb. In The Airbnb Way, he shows how innovative leaders have managed to build an unique brand by inspiring and engaging a community of hospitality entrepreneurs―a feat unparalleled in the shared economy. Inside, you’ll find:

    • Airbnb’s strategies and practices that drive customer engagement and loyalty
    • How to provide phenomenal customer service in the shared economy
    • Proven principles for getting the most from all stakeholders―including those who share resources and services
    • Exclusive interviews with Airbnb leaders, hosts, and guests that provide invaluable information for your business

    The shared economy is the future, but it introduces business challenges never before faced: How do you serve a broad range of customers across varying geographies through a distributed network of “partners? Michelli shows how Airbnb seems to have solved that puzzle.

    I’ll be back – Shep Hyken

    Shep Hyken is a renowned customer service and experience expert who wrote many brilliant books about CX. His latest book “I’ll be back” maintains that delivering an amazing customer service experience that keeps customers coming back for more is everyone’s job. Customer service is not a department. It’s not just for people on the front lines. It’s the responsibility of everyone in the organization, from the CEO or owner of a business to the most recently hired employee. It’s the result of a customer-focused philosophy that must be baked into the culture. And it is what separates companies from their competition. In this book, you’ll learn how to turn customers into repeat customers and turn repeat customers into loyal customers.

    These are some of the key insights:

    • How to design and create an experience that gets customers to return, again and again
    • The one trackable trend that leaders must monitor every morning
    • The difference between repeat customers and loyal customers
    • How to build the I’ll Be Back culture
    • How delivering an amazing customer experience is within reach of every organization
    • The two simple words that are the secret to every customer service program
    • Why most “loyalty programs” fail to create customer loyalty
    • How to personalize the customer experience
    • Why setting up or expanding self-service and digital customer service choices are a must, not an option
    • Ten loyalty killers that can terminate your relationship with your customers

    Service is a Superpower: Lessons Learned in a Magic Kingdom – Louie Gravance

    When I started drawing up this list, I knew that I had to include a book about Disney which is my all-time favorite company in the world and a true king of CX. In this book, Louie Gravance writes about his personal journey through the realm of customer service. Part memoir, part self-help manual for businesses big and small, Gravance interweaves his tales of life at Disney theme parks with practical guidance gleaned during the course of a thirty-year career in the service and entertainment industries.

    Gravance teaches us that the importance of delivering the finest service experiences possible is not just crucial for the livelihood of a company it also leads to developing a culture of respect and responsibility that is so coveted in the corporate world today. Throughout the book, Gravance crafts an intriguing tale that demonstrates how working at Disney theme parks changed the way he viewed customer service, and elucidates the transformational effects it can have on those who provide it.

    The Offer You Can’t Refuse – Steven Van Belleghem

    I hope that you will forgive me if I shamelessly add my own latest book about CX, “The Offer You Can’t Refuse” to this list. In it, I write about how great products, great service and a competitive price have become the norm. They are a minimum demand. In the course of the past decade, digital convenience has become more and more important. Today, we can conclude that digital convenience has become a commodity. If you have it: fine. If you don’t: you are in trouble as customers have a sort of zero-tolerance for digital inconvenience these days. So, having great products and great digital interfaces is important, but it doesn’t make you stand out anymore.

    To make a difference, companies will have to play an active role in their customers’ life journey. As a company how can you help consumers’ dreams come true and eliminate the obstacles in their day-to-day lives? And finally, companies have the opportunity to tackle concrete world problems together with the customer. The world is facing unprecedented challenges: climate, healthcare, government budget deficits, mobility… How can a company involve its customers in the solution to these problems? The combination of automation, being a partner in consumers’ lives and solving actual social issues will be the guiding principles for the successful business of the next decade. For consumers, the combination of all these elements constitutes an offer they can’t refuse.

    So, that’s it for now. Don’t forget to let me know which are your personal favorite books about CX!

    How To Compete In A New Era Of Innovation 960 How To Compete In A New Era Of Innovation Mon, 14 Jun 2021 08:07:00 +0000 Guest contributor Greg Satell As the futurist Roy Amara famously put it, “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.” The truth is that it usually takes about 30 years for a technology to go from an initial discovery to a measurable impact.

    Today, as we near the end of the digital age and enter a new era of innovation, Amara’s point is incredibly important to keep in mind. New technologies, such as quantum computing, blockchain and gene editing will be overhyped, but really will change the world, eventually. So we need to do more than adapt, we need to prepare for a future we can’t see yet.

    Identify A “Hair-On-Fire” Use Case

    Today we remember the steam engine for powering factories and railroads. In the process, it made the first industrial revolution possible. Yet that’s not how it started out. Its initial purpose was to pump water out of coal mines. At the time, it would have been tough to get people to imagine a factory that didn’t exist yet, but pretty easy for owners to see that their mine was flooded.

    The truth is that innovation is never really about ideas, it’s about solving problems. So when a technology is still nascent, doesn’t gain traction in a large, established market, which by definition is already fairly well served, but in a hair-on-fire use case — a problem that somebody needs solved so badly that they almost literally have their hair on fire.

    Early versions of the steam engine, such as Thomas Newcomen’s version, didn’t work well and were ill-suited to running factories or driving locomotives. Still, flooded mines were a major problem, so many were more tolerant of glitches and flaws. Later, after James Watt perfected the steam engine, it became more akin to technology that remember now.

    We can see the same principle at work today. Blockchain has not had much impact as an alternative currency, but has gained traction optimizing supply chains. Virtual reality has not really caught on in the entertainment industry, but is making headway in corporate training. That’s probably not where those technologies will end up, but it’s how they make money now.

    So in the early stages of a technology, don’t try to imagine how a perfected version fit in, find a problem that somebody needs solved so badly right now that they are willing to put up with some inconvenience.

    The truth is that the “next big thing” never turns out like people think it will. Putting a man on the moon, for example, didn’t lead to flying cars like in the Jetsons, but instead to satellites that bring events to us from across the world, help us navigate to the corner store and call our loved ones from a business trip.

    Build A Learning Curve

    Things that change the world always start out arrive out of context, for the simple reason that the world hasn’t changed yet. So when a new technology first appears, we don’t really know how to use it. It takes time to learn how to leverage its advantages to create an impact.

    Consider electricity, which as the economist Paul David explained in a classic paper, was first used in factories to cut down on construction costs (steam engines were heavy and needed extra bracing). What wasn’t immediately obvious was that electricity allowed factories to be designed to optimize workflow, rather than having to be arranged around the power source.

    We can see the same forces at work today. Consider Amazon’s recent move to offer quantum computing to its customers through the cloud, even though the technology is so primitive that it has no practical application. Nevertheless, it is potentially so powerful—and so different from digital computing—that firms are willing to pay for the privilege of experimenting with it.

    The truth is that it’s better to prepare than it is to adapt. When you are adapting you are, by definition, already behind. That’s why it’s important to build a learning curve early, before a technology has begun to impact your business.

    Beware Of Switching Costs

    When we look back today, it seems incredible that it took decades for factories to switch from steam to electricity. Besides the extra construction costs to build extra bracing, steam engines were dirty and inflexible. Every machine in the factory needed to be tied to one engine, so if one broke down or needed maintenance, the whole factory had to be shut down.

    However, when you look at the investment from the perspective of a factory owner, things aren’t so clear cut. While electricity was relatively more attractive when building a new factory, junking an existing facility to make way for a new technology didn’t make as much sense. So most factory owners kept what they had.

    These types of switching costs still exist today. Consider neuromorphic chips, which are based on the architecture of the human brain and therefore highly suited to artificial intelligence. They are also potentially millions of times more energy efficient than conventional chips. However, existing AI chips also perform very well, can be manufactured in conventional fabs and run conventional AI algorithms, so neuromorphic chips haven’t caught on yet.

    All too often, when a new technology emerges we only look at how its performance compares to what exists today and ignore the importance of switching costs—both real and imagined. That’s a big part of the reason we underestimate how long a technology takes to gain traction and underestimate how much impact it will have in the long run.

    Find Your Place In The Ecosystem

    We tend to see history through the lens of inventions: Watt and his steam engine. Edison and his light bulb. Ford and his assembly line. Yet building a better mousetrap is never enough to truly change the world. Besides the need to identify a use case, build a learning curve and overcome switching costs, every new technology needs an ecosystem to truly drive the future.

    Ford’s automobiles needed roads and gas stations, which led to supermarkets, shopping malls and suburbs. Electricity needed secondary inventions, such as home appliances and radios, which created a market for skilled technicians. It is often in the ecosystem, rather than the initial invention, where most of the value is produced.

    Today, we can see similar ecosystems beginning to form around emerging technologies. The journal Nature published an analysis which showed that over $450 million was invested in more than 50 quantum startups between 2012 and 2018, but only a handful are actually making quantum computers. The rest are helping to build out the ecosystem.

    So for most of us, the opportunities in the post-digital era won’t be creating new technologies themselves, but in the ecosystems they create. That’s where we’ll see new markets emerge, new jobs created and new fortunes to be made.

    This piece was first published on Greg’s blog

    Real innovation is (not) boring Pt I - the energy and utilities market 960 Real innovation is (not) boring Pt I - the energy and utilities market Wed, 09 Jun 2021 11:29:00 +0000 Joren Lemiegre Without denying the importance of these people and their companies, the innovations they represent are just the tip of the iceberg and they are mostly aimed at consumers. While sending what’s basically a modified grain silo with rocket engines into space, is quite entertaining, it won’t impact our lives very much -yet. That’s why I think it’s time to take a look at the industries that will change the most over the next decade and will have the biggest impact on our lives.

    Energy never dies. It just changes form.

    Talking about impacted industries, the energy and utilities market is a fascinating industry to kickstart my “boring innovation series”. The EU’s goal to reach net-zero (carbon emissions) by 2050 will require fundamental changes and it’s for a reason we’re including a session about the world’s resources in our Mission NXT program.

    A visible short-term change with a major impact is the transition from ICE (internal combustion engine) cars to electric cars. Between today and 2030, the latter will slowly become mainstream. The real innovation, however, is going to happen at the generation, transmission, and storage side of our energy industry.

    Grid balance sparks joy

    For the past 50 years or so, the energy market was rather static. Depending on the country you lived in, electricity was either generated by gas, coal, nuclear fission (the splitting of a large atomic nucleus into smaller nuclei, not to be confused with nuclear fusion) or anything else that could be burned. A working power grid just meant building a power plant, connect it to the grid, and make sure demand and supply were in balance (an extreme simplification of course).

    Today, grid operators are being confronted with a decentralized and unpredictable production of renewable energy, taking the balancing of that grid to an entirely new level. As boring as that sounds, it involves a lot of engineering and new technologies to make it happen.

    As a result of this fluctuating production, energy providers are regularly impacted by negative power prices (when a high and inflexible power generation appears simultaneously with low electricity demand). In fact, the electricity market might be one of the few markets where supply and demand have such an effect on pricing in real-time. On a windy day with lots of sun, this can lead to market players being paid to “buy” excess electricity.

    This movement alone is currently shaping a completely new market dynamic. There is a lot of money to be made in helping the grid operator to balance the grid. It can be as simple as a large provider of cooled storage lowering the temperature in its freezers when energy is cheap or even free (thus increasing energy usage) and turning up the temperature (a bit) when energy is expensive (thus decreasing energy usage).

    What do you have in storage?

    The company in my example is offering a primitive way of energy storage and as such, can play a crucial role in the energy ecosystem. For this to work however, the systems in place need to be able to take decisions based on outside temperature, market insights and food safety. As such combining AI, IOT and economics. Who said the energy market is boring?

    Looking at energy storage in a broader way, innovation there is happening at light speed as well. Hundreds of companies, universities and governmental organizations are developing new battery types (flow-batteries, solid-state batteries, etc.). Sometimes it’s as “simple” as refining existing chemistries or finding alternatives that might do the same as a battery, like moving heavy objects up a hill when there is an excess of electricity and let them ride down to re-generate that electricity.

    Slowly, these technologies are entering the market. In Australia for example, the French renewable energy provider Neoen installed a giant a battery pack to balance the grid that paid for itself after about two years’ time.

    In addition to “traditional” battery storage, a lot of money is being put in hydrogen generation and storage in the EU as well. Whether this will be a viable business model with battery prices dropping year after year remains to be seen. Hydrogen for shipping, steel production and other industrial processes requiring a lot of heat however, will definitely be a driver for future growth.

    Let there be light

    On the generation-side of electricity, fantastic stuff is happening as well. (Offshore) Wind turbines are becoming larger and more efficient by the year. In France, the first large-scale fusion-reactor is shaping up and might produce its first plasma in 2025. At the same time, solar is being added to the grid at an unprecedented rate and as such, South Australia, for the first time ever, ran for 100% on solar energy only for more than one hour back in October 2021.

    As far as renewable energy goes, here too it’s changing the game entirely. According to a study from the International Renewable Agency, many new renewable energy projects are now cheaper than even the cheapest coal-fired power plants. As such, driving these players out of the market. In the end, no traditional power plant might be able to compete with renewables without subsidies. After all, the incremental cost of a wind turbine to generate more electricity is close to zero.


    For the sake of readability, this blog post does not talk about energy transmission, alternative energy (re)sources and the engineering necessary to facilitate this shift.

    As an organization however, it is important to realize the changes that are happening in in the energy market. After all, with the right insights, a lot of organizations can profit from the big energy shift that is currently going on. At the same time, not being aware of this shift can cause a lot of harm to both the environment and your bottom line.

    Play time is over, it is no longer the greenies preaching change. Today we are talking economics and the odds are not in your favour if you’re still betting on fossil fuels.

    How sustainable innovation helped these five corporates reinvent themselves 960 How sustainable innovation helped these five corporates reinvent themselves Mon, 07 Jun 2021 12:17:00 +0000 Eline Lostrie In this blog, I wanted to share five corporates that inspired me with their mix of sustainability and innovation.

    Nike: new shoes, new materials

    Sneakers are hugely popular. Which in turn, has led to concerns about the environmental impact of shoe production. Nike is at the forefront of tackling these issues, among other examples, by inventing a range of new materials.

    They launched Flyknit, a lightweight fabric for the upper part of the shoe, that produces 60% less waste. On top of that, it comes with a whole range of advantages: the tissue is breathable, and creates ventilation. At the same time it adjusts more tightly to the foot shape, thereby creating a better running experience.

    Another example is Flyleather, Nike’s new alternative to real leather. Leather has one of the highest environmental impacts of shoe materials, so Nike combined recycled leather, that is generally left in the production halls, and combined it with synthetic tissue to create the touch, feel and durability of real leather, but with significantly less environmental impact.

    So not only do these materials reduce the waste of shoe production, they also offer a range of advantages for consumers and production efficiency.

    IKEA: not just furniture

    Another corporate that places sustainability at the core of their innovation is IKEA. The Swedish furniture giant incorporates sustainability in their product design. They use recycled elements, such as plastic or wood, in their furniture, and by 2030 they want to be completely circular.

    But sustainability also helped IKEA diversify their business model. The restaurants at IKEA stores have become popular stand-alone businesses: in 2017 the company even revealed that 30% of restaurant visitors came there just to eat. A big part of that success are the vegetarian options: their plant-based hot-dogs and meatballs are legendary in their own right. On top of that, IKEA wants their restaurant meals to be 50% plant-based by 2025. IKEA has also expanded into building solar panels on houses, which they hope to offer in 30 markets by 2025.

    Microsoft: funding change

    Sustainable innovation can also mean incentivising change outside your own organisation, and Microsoft is a great example of this. The US software icon does, of course, have hefty internal sustainability goals: it wants to be carbon negative by 2030.

    Yet it also finances clean technology opportunities outside of its own company borders. A key part of their effort is a Climate Innovation Fund, which will invest 1 billion dollars in sustainable solutions between 2020 and 2024. Another area on which Microsoft is focusing is carbon removal. Combating climate change won’t only require expelling less CO2, but also capturing and removing existing emissions from the atmosphere. Microsoft has opened a call to remove 1 million metric tons of carbon in 2021, which other companies can fill in. Thereby they push the development of this key new area of sustainable technology.

    Shell: from oil to hydrogen giant

    Royal Dutch Shell is of course a highly controversial pick for this list. The Anglo-Dutch oil company has contributed heavily to climate change. Yet even Shell is seeing that the future is sustainable, and they’re trying to change their business before fossil fuels finally make their exit.

    For Shell hydrogen is a key to that transformation. The company invests heavily in the new fuel. They even started up a project where the production of hydrogen is tied to offshore wind farms, thereby producing so-called “green hydrogen.” In this way the old oil expert is trying to stay relevant in this new age.

    Walmart: innovating supply chains

    Corporates have tremendous power to change supply chains, which the massive US retailer Walmart has proven. Until recently the company had quite a negative reputation on sustainability. In 2005, up to 8% of shoppers stopped going to Walmart because of environmental reasons, which pushed them to change.

    Among other actions, they forced their entire supply chain to innovate. Walmart pushed Unilever to introduce smaller packaging for detergent, even though research showed that customers leaned towards bigger boxes. They started Project Gigaton, which aims to prevent the release of a gigaton of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. And they even prepared their supply chain for (climate-change induced) disasters.

    So whether it’s through new materials, new products, new business models or change inside or outside your organisation, sustainability can be a key pillar for innovation. Time to stop looking at it as merely a cost and get into the commercial ‘saving the world’ mindset that nexxworks Partner Steven Van Belleghem describes in his latest book “The Offer You Can’t Refuse”.

    Interested in what sustainable innovation could mean for your company? Contact Eline for a coffee and a chat at

    Post-Covid business: what changed? 960 Post-Covid business: what changed? Mon, 07 Jun 2021 12:00:00 +0000 France Van Nieuwenborgh We confronted thought leader Rik Vera with three statements: 
    Will we return to the office? Did COVID-19 kill long-term planning? Will the post-covid customer be different? Download the webinar, including the discussion and challenge Rik on his predictions about these questions:

    PODCAST: Radar - by nexxworks May 2021 960 PODCAST: Radar - by nexxworks May 2021 Tue, 01 Jun 2021 12:51:00 +0000 We have lots of exciting news for you in this month’s episode of Radar - by nexxworks. We talked about SheIn overtaking Amazon as most downloaded app, GaryVee’s NFT project, cities paying remote workers up to $20,000 to relocate, climate risk platform Cervest, Amazon acquiring MGM studios for 8,45 billion, Nvidia limiting crypto-mining on its new graphics card, TikTok reportedly testing a job recruitment tool, bias in technology, the Colonial Pipeline hack, Google announcing a health tool to identify skin conditions, China's working population which is declining fast compared to ageing population, and sustainable investing.

    At one point, you’ll hear China keynote speaker Pascal Coppens discuss China’s two-child policy. The episode was recorded last week, before the new three-child policy was announced, so it wasn’t a lapse on his side. You can read up on the new policy here.

    Hope you enjoy this episode and please be so kind as to share it, rate us or follow our channel, if you like what you hear:

    If you prefer to listen on Apple Podcasts, you can do that here.

    Hungry for more insights? Check our awesome collection of e-books by Peter Hinssen, Pascal Coppens, Rik Vera, Steven Van Belleghem, Laurence Van Elegem and many more:

    The 3 biggest questions about business after Covid-19 960 The 3 biggest questions about business after Covid-19 Mon, 31 May 2021 08:31:00 +0000 Rik Vera Can we expect our old world back? Are we going back ‘to normal’? Or will there be ‘an new normal’? Well, it’s actually none of these things. And also all of them. The old normal will not be blown to pieces. It will still be there. But even though it will look, feel and smell like the old normal, it’s no longer a place of comfort. It’s stale and worn out and I never want to return to it.

    When the pandemic just started, I wrote that I was hoping that our forced retreat in our bunkers would last long enough. I am sorry I ever said that. I didn’t mean this long, of course. Why I wrote that was because the pandemic forced us to acknowledge that the way we were leading our lives and conducting our business, was not in balance with our planet, its people and our own well-being. We saw the light and we would never go back to how it was.

    I knew that changing people’s habits takes plenty of time and if we would have been allowed to return to free world a few weeks after the forced lock-down, we would have returned to that ‘safe’ old normal. We would have forgotten about our intentions not to go back to life and business as usual.

    But if what we are going to find after Covid-19 is not the New Normal, then what is it?

    Well, I call it The Twilight Twenties. The in-between zone. The zone of monsters and creeps. The zone in which some of us will design some sort of New Normal, using the building blocks from the old. The zone in which some will wake up one day in a new world that was not shaped by them and by definition not for them and will be crushed. The zone in which others will try to feed on the remains of the Old Normal until they die from starvation. It is the zone of the good, the bad and the ugly. The choice is yours.

    The way out is to be exceedingly curious ask as many questions as you can, and I wanted to start you off with three of my own (which I will also try to answer in our upcoming free webinar on June 4th.):

    1. Will we return to the office or not?
    2. Should we burn our long term pre-covid plans?
    3. What about the customer in the post-covid-19 universe. Is that a new breed?

    Will we return to the office?

    At the beginning of 2020, we were thrown in isolation and discovered all things digital. We knew that all the tools that we embraced to organise our lives and business in the bunker, had been available for decades. Most of us had however preferred to party like is was 1999: as if nothing had changed. Most people never even tried to use Zoom and Teams to organise work and find out whether another way of working was an option. We were also convinced of the fact that most decisions were being made in the corridors or at the coffee machine and not in one of those endless meetings in which we decided that we would have another meeting to decide we needed another meeting to… You get the point. Day after day after day, we hardly survived the traffic jams in between home and work and work and home and we wondered what the heck we were doing at the office that we couldn’t do at any other place. Working in the office was a waste of time, energy and money. But we were unable to change our habits. And then Covid-19 came along.

    All things digital were a brilliant explosion of efficiency and speed of execution. Projects that would have taken forever and would have been outdated before even being implemented, took a few days. On top of that, work and life were in perfect balance. It seemed.

    But the pandemic lasted longer than expected and in the end it stayed on long enough for us to realise that all things digital were not that perfect.

    Just like all of you, I was thrilled about the digital way of working and I shouted out loud that we would kill the office and all things related to that awful concept that came straight out of the 19thcentury.

    But just like all of you, I slowly started to feel exhausted and the perfect work-life balance turned into a feeling of even more unbalance than before. Work had no beginning and no ending and all days were the same: a flat screen and images of people and endless back to back to back digital meetings the whole day long. I knew I was storing stuff in my memory but I couldn’t find it afterwards and I wasted more and more time and energy in trying to find my way in the thickening fog inside my brain. I was not the only one lost in the eternal Covid mist. The initial speed and efficiency of digital meetings melted like snow in the desert and things got messy, slow and thick like melted bitumen. We needed tools to support the tools and tools to fill the gaps and tools to help us remember things and tools to design processes. All things normal needed tools. It drove us nuts.

    Have you also noticed that everybody you meet online is complaining about being exhausted, bored and running out of energy and inspiration? Of course you have. Have you noticed that we feel like a lion in the zoo. Nothing to worry about and leading a life of comfort, but going nuts because our brain misses the natural impulses. We noticed that the culture of a company was not the slogans on the wall in the corridors, but that it was something that was wandering through those corridors like an invisible ghost feeding on real-life people. Because now the corridors were empty, the real people were locked in bunkers and the culture was starving. People started to miss the serendipity and impulses of the chaotic, nonefficient, time wasting tribal gatherings. We missed the coffee-machine talks.

    The screaming alarm that all of us were longing for new impulses and real human interaction, was the success of Clubhouse (You may think: Clubhouse? Oh … hell yeah, that thing) that spread like a wildfire and ended like a wildfire ends (all of a sudden when the rains come) only a few weeks later, because it promised to be the real thing, but it wasn’t. Only the real thing is the real thing. We started to realise how much we missed a real clubhouse and even I started to miss the office and the 19thcentury..

    So do we return to the office? No. We have not forgotten all the downsides. Do we keep going in our digital isolation? No. We have been there, done that and it is no good. Confusing., right? I told you: we are entering The Twilight Zone, the zone in between those two no-go zones, the zone of monsters and creeps and the zone of the 1001 consultants that suddenly popped up out of nowhere and call themselves New Way of Working Specialists. They are using your confusion to sell you their mighty wisdom, their silver bullet solutions, nicely packaged in newspeak buzzwords.

    All of a sudden there is that new breed that make us believe that when we leave our bunkers, there will be The New Way of Working. They behave like Gods, descending from the clouds to create a whole new universe for which they have created dozens of rules and regulations, dos and don’ts, procedures and things that are an obligation and things that are forbidden. And we better behave like good girls and boys and listen and obey.

    They have invented newspeak words like ‘hybrid working’, as if we are going to take some stuff from the old way of working, some of what we have discovered in the bunker and stitch it together to create something that is going to work, just because they tell you it is going to work. The best example of all things hybrid is the creation of Frankenstein. It is a monster.

    One of the other newspeak expressions is ‘asynchronuous working’. It sounds very scientific, that for sure. Each time I pronounce the magic words, I have to reset my mouth, but when I think about it, I can’t imagine what the heck this is all about. As far as I can remember, humans are very good at a-synchronicity in life and business.

    Synchronized swimming or diving are Olympic sports and take many years of intense training. I have been leading teams and companies for many years and believe me, I have hardly ever seen a moment of synchronicity between people. Maybe I should read what that thing is about.

    I would like to share some of their New Way of Working ideas, because they make sense. But there is a problem that I can’t ignore and that is this: I see too many business leaders that are afraid to question those specialists. They are scared to admit that they have missed people and that they might ask them to come to the office and figure out how to find a balance that is not hybrid, but will be the result of chaos, experimentation and trial and error. They seem afraid to be called old fashioned dinosaurs that are afraid of the new normal. I even see specialists claim that if one feels the culture of a company is falling apart, that that is not due to all things remote and digital, but because there was no culture as a starter. I wonder how something that was not there can disappear, but that may just be me.

    We have been here before. For years we have been dragging people out of their separate offices to push them together into open offices ‘to create more collaboration and an open culture’ because that seemed logical: when people work in the same open space, they will work together and be more open. We did all that clever stuff only to find out that the result was quite the opposite.

    Now once more we push people into the new open space of digital transparency of the shared digital tools that people are obliged to use to share everything they do. And again we believe that is going to create more collaboration, more efficiency, more transparency, more knowledge and an open culture that is rock solid. You must be joking.

    All we need is chaos. Let’s create a central place for the hotspot of wasting time and useless conversations: the coffee-machine. It is still the ultimate innovation laboratory.

    Should we burn our long term pre-covid plans?

    No you should not.

    So far for the good news, now let us share the more inconvenient truth: do NOT try to execute those plans, unless you like to play Russian roulette with the company, which I doubt.

    So if you are not supposed to burn the plans, but are not supposed to use them either, what than are they good for? Well, there might be elements in there: ideas, timelines, milestones, strategic thoughts, executional plans, numbers, facts,… that might come in handy when you start to build a company that is ready for the life and business after Covid-19. We are entering at least 10 years of the biggest turmoil ever (Am I scaring you? Good).

    What is the business environment going to look like in 2026? I have no clue. There is climate change, population growth, urbanisation. There is pressure on food, water, energy, health and mobility. There is the unprecedented impact of social media, the merging of the off- and online world. There is data overload, the rise of AI and robotization. There is the end of an economy based on endless growth on a limited planet…

    Forget 5 year plans. They are completely useless. But if we can’t rely on plans, than what is it that you should do? Scenario building. Not one scenario, but a few that you keep up-to-date and you shouldn’t be afraid to jump from one scenario to another.

    Leadership in a scenario hopping context is completely different than the traditional way. A five year plan is about checklist management. Scenario-hopping is about CHIEF leadership. Leaders better show Connection, Humility, Integrity, Empathy and Forgiveness.

    What about the customer in the post-covid-19 universe. Is that a new customer?

    The customer has always been a moving target. Covid-19 did not change the customer. Even an 18 month pandemic worldwide semi-lockdown is not enough to change or break customer habits. I’m talking about real gamechangers like the internet and the smartphone. The virus may have been speeding up the changes that are not new. The keyword here is ‘more’:

    • The customer is more Connected
    • The Customer is more Unbalanced and Uncertain
    • The customer is more Self-Centered
    • The customer is more Tribal
    • The customer is more OMO (Online-Merge-Offline) sapiens
    • The customer has its Mind Fuller and longs for more Mindfulness.
    • The customer is more Ethical and Ecological
    • The customer is more Radical.

    The CUSTOMER will kill you if you have no answer to the most important question ever: What would people miss if your company was not around?

    The Twilight Zone is not about answers, I’m afraid. It’s about asking as many questions as you can, planning as many scenarios possible and adapting with each new wave that comes at you. If you’re ready for that (or if you’re not), come join me on June 4th on our free webinar “Post-Covid business: what changed?

    Nexxworks launches 2 membership programs to help companies future-proof themselves & capitalize on global trends 960 Nexxworks launches 2 membership programs to help companies future-proof themselves & capitalize on global trends Thu, 27 May 2021 07:23:00 +0000 At the end of 2020, nexxworks launched its first online yearly membership program Mission CX: 10 live online sessions about customer experience, moderated by CX experts Steven Van Belleghem and Rik Vera. The mission features:

    • keynotes from top customer experience experts like Nir Eyal, Brian Solis, Blake Morgan, Pieter Abbeel, Ken Hughes, Inma Martinez and many more;
    • unique company cases from Disney (Duncan Wardle), Zappos (Mark Gallagher) and Samsung Next (Alexander Haque);
    • practical interactive workshops;
    • fun networking possibilities;
    • and access to a community and content platform with like-minded CX peers.

    After the success of that first pilot mission, we’re very excited to introduce 2 brand new ones as of September 2021:

    1. Mission OX, zooming in on what it takes to build a future-proof organization;
    2. And Mission NXT, about all the major global trends as well as their impact on and potential for your company.

    What is Mission OX?

    Mission OX has been tailored to the needs of those who want to become the phoenix of their industry: companies that want to stay relevant by reinventing themselves at the right time.

    We’re still building an awesome program (though Simon Sinek, Heather E. McGowan, Terence Mauri, April Rinne, Amy Webb and Adam Grant are on our wishlist, to give you an idea), but this year’s sessions will zoom in on:

    1. Organizational adaptability
    2. Turning failure into opportunities
    3. Preventing bore- and burn-outs
    4. Reinventing organizations
    5. Self-steering company models
    6. The future of agile
    7. The gig economy
    8. Stimulating collaboration
    9. The future of leadership
    10. How to motivate innovation

    All sessions will be moderated by Nancy Rademaker, a nexxworks Partner and nexxworks Collective keynote speaker specialized in market leadership, employee experience and customer centricity.

    What is Mission NXT?

    More than ever, the pandemic has taught us that companies do not live in a void: global trends and challenges have an immense impact on our supply chains, customers, energy use, employees etc. Companies who want to play their part in the future, will receive these world-wide insights from our Mission NXT program:

    1. The future of finance
    2. The future of healthcare
    3. The 300 billion gaming economy
    4. Networked organizations
    5. The latest evolutions in China
    6. The triple bottom line (planet, people and profit)
    7. Peter Hinssen’s hourglass model of innovation
    8. Education and leadership development
    9. The future of energy
    10. Building a global supply chain

    All sessions will be moderated by nexxworks Founder, serial entrepreneur, author and keynote speaker Peter Hinssen who’s specialized in global macrotrends, (corporate) innovation, entrepreneurial leadership, networks and the impact of all things digital. Pascal Coppens, China keynote speaker and author will be his co-moderator.

    If you’re intrigued and want to know more about the program, reach out to

    If you have a press inquiry, contact

    Want to deliver awesome pitches? Do these two things. 960 Want to deliver awesome pitches? Do these two things. Tue, 25 May 2021 14:41:00 +0000 Laurence Van Elegem The Pitch Doctor, Christoph Sollich, has helped more than 2.000 startups and corporate intrapreneurs improve their pitches. He is a mentor and coach for dozens of accelerators, incubators and corporate venture labs, with customers like Plug+Play, TechFounders, Deutsche Telekom,, Youtube, Daimler, VW, Roland Berger, ING, Deutsche Bahn etc.

    Christoph is also one of the top speakers at our next Kickstart Innovation Bootcamp in October 2021. So what better way to introduce him than to feature his advice about pitching?

    Here are two of his top tips, though you’ll learn many more at the bootcamp, of course.

    1. Do your research

    You wouldn’t show up at a job interview without any insights in the company, so why would you pitch for an investor you know nothing about? And yet, according to Christoph, that’s a common mistake founders make. “Check the investors’ social media, their website, interviews they’ve given and anything that can help you understand what they're exactly looking for. Find out if anyone in your network is connected with them and if they can offer you more insights. Look for the companies they have invested in in the past and what their vision of the future is.” The more you understand them, the bigger your chances of hooking them.

    2. Make it personal and aim for the heart

    Founders often think that investors are only interested in huge financial projections when it comes to pitching. According to Sollich, they are just as concerned about the people behind the idea: “tell them why you are the one that will drive the success of this solution, at this time”. It’s never only about the idea or about financial gain, it really is a combination of personal and of professional aspects. “You’re selling yourself as much as you’re selling your start-up. That’ why I don’t believe in strict ‘rules’ like “don’t put your hands in your pockets” during pitches. Just act natural. And show your passion. Aim for their heart, not their brain. Investors will only start caring if they have an emotional reaction to the pitch. Only when that happens, they will use their brain.”

    Want more tips from Pitch Doctor Christoph Sollich? Join our Kickstart Innovation Bootcamp in October!

    What we can learn from the Chinese leadership model 960 What we can learn from the Chinese leadership model Wed, 19 May 2021 14:10:00 +0000 Pascal Coppens Many companies are even hiring a Chief Happiness Officer to ensure that the emotions and dreams of employees would get the full attention from management. We’re supposed to treat employees as people with feelings, not as machine with brains. The result is that we are evolving fast towards a leadership model where soft-skills, collaboration and consensus are gaining in importance for the organisations of the future.

    Are we misreading the Chinese management style?

    In contrast, we view China’s very pragmatic leadership style as autocratic, bureaucratic and purely transactional. Many westerners who worked for a Chinese company will testify that in China the “Big Boss” takes all key decisions, hierarchy is paramount, and Chinese employees are no team players. Western business leaders therefore are not attracted to learn from or apply any Chinese management styles. Many business schools also claim that China has not yet produced a GE, Google or Toyota management style that was able to change the organizational model.

    However, when we look at how China has created the biggest companies in less than 20 years’ time, outcompeting their Western and Japanese counterparts in most industries, they must be doing something right, don’t you think? One has to wonder if we are blinded by our own past successes, or whether we do not understand how to incorporate Chinese management styles. Or, maybe we are just simply misreading what the Chinese management style is?

    Due to the stories we read in Western media - on how the monolithically Chinese society is being run top-down to coerce its subjects into obedience we have become myopic to the richness of influences inside Chinese organizations: a blend of deeply embedded Chinese cultural influences with a splash of Western leadership style adoptions.

    A deep dive into the past – 3 mindsets

    But if we are to understand why so many Chinese companies are disrupting Western markets, industries and companies, we have to dive deep into China’s mindset of the past. China has known a hundred schools of thought, but today three of them are still shaping how Chinese society and business are run and managed: Confucianism, Legalism and Taoism.

    1. Confucianism & godfather cultures

    The Confucian thought is paternalistic. It strives for harmony, mutual respect and benevolence. Leaders focus on “Walking the talk” and “caring for the group”. The employee becomes part of the larger company family, trust is central, and the boss is much respected. This vertical and more worshipping-style leadership structure that seeks out harmony between stakeholders can be in conflict with modern Western management styles that embrace discussions, even disagreements, as the engine of our advancements. It seems to mirror the transformational leadership of the 20th century in the West, with charismatic leaders to motivate workers. But at same time, it can lead to disappointments, lack of expertise and even unethical behaviour to please the leader.

    I refer to these Chinese companies as “godfather” cultures, which can be compared to the operating model of criminal organizations like the Italian Mafia or the Japanese Yakuza, yet without the killing part, of course. You are either in the circle of confidants, or outside the family. These companies are characterized by their tough founders like Ren Zhenfei of Huawei, Liu Chuanzhi of Lenovo or the “iron lady” Dong Mingzhu of Gree household products, who never took a day off in 30 years’ time. Most common to this category of leaders is that they built their empire during the opening up of China in the 1980-90s after gaining much experience in state-owned enterprise. They are hardened by the cultural revolution and are known for their hard-line, combative and no-nonsense approach. Management by love and fear.

    The paradox is that in reality these harsh leaders care much more about the people who form the organisation than many Western concerns. They put people and individuals above technology – even when they are a tech company like Huawei or Lenovo. That is due to the Confucian value of “personal relationship” or “guanxi” that is sacred.

    Guanxi refers to all interpersonal relations amongst colleagues with a higher ideal to strengthen the group - which in turn protects and cares for its subjects. Trust within this group is very strong and therefore it is extremely hard to do business with these companies without first building a strong relationship with people – even when no immediate benefit is expected. In the West however, especially in America, it is perfectly possible to do business without investing time in people, and instead rely on a contract only. But in China, especially in Confucian business culture, there is an unspoken expectation to help each other first – even if only to give other side “face”.

    The power of “Guanxi” means that Confucian-driven companies build teams by hiring people who strengthen the trust within the team. Every player in that team motivates, yet also monitors others. The team is not really a department, but has the social fabric of a family. Within that team, there is a lot of room for its agents to experiment, but the team managers have to prove themselves towards their superiors and the company as a whole.

    In the West, we rely more on technology to optimize our internal processes and output, while in Chinese Confucian entities, the executives trust their team managers to increase the productivity of each member with any resources they deem appropriate. In the West, we also often look for external help to engage employees and enhance the team spirit with a teambuilding event, training or even personal coach. Instead of organizing educational outings and ‘outside-the-box’ brainstorming sessions, the Chinese “godfather” companies invite you to their family and take care of you from day one.

    2. Legalism & marshall cultures

    The old legalistic thought is strongly autocratic and commanding, with rules, control and bureaucracy.

    This type of leadership is represented by the “Carrot and stick” and “chain of command” mentality. These leaders are known for their command-and-control management approach. We know this type from the micro-managers who care less about relationships than about transparent facts and data that can lead to better results and higher efficiency. It puts a lot of strain on the workers, which can hamper the creativity and sustainability of the organisation, because emotions, needs and trust of employees are inferior to their performance.

    These are what I call the “marshal” type business cultures of China, who function like an army, of course without fighting a real war. Companies like the insurer PingAn, the delivery company Meituan and most Chinese state-owned companies have this deeply entrenched legalistic work culture.

    These companies trust technology and the system above people. The Confucian value of “face” aligns well with the legalistic mindset as it refers to the social status that people acquire in a meritocratic company or society, which enables them to command respect and trust from subordinates. This is not about ‘leading by example’ as with “godfather” leaders, but ‘leading by past achievements’.

    In the West, one can also ‘lose face’, but in China, the opposite to ‘gain face’ or ‘gain recognition’ is more important. Any employee can invest in a leader’s status or ‘face’ by showing him or her respect to make him/her feel important. The reason politicians, leaders, scientists and teachers are so respected in China, as opposed to the disrespect we often show them in the West, is because they have cashed in much more ‘face-time’ (pun intended). In the West, business leaders, in general, trust employees more, while in China the employees trust their bosses more.

    Western managers tend to motivate individual employees to grow into their full potential. Chinese leaders build more personal relationships with staff, and will support the self-motivated members more – as they will get more ‘face’ value in return from them. Chinese business leaders are dissatisfied when someone does not perform, while Western leaders get irritated when someone does not cooperate. As such, modern Chinese organisations will prefer to trust the data, not the HR manager, to disclose whether someone is motivated during the hiring process – especially as the HR manager in the Chinese personal relationship context is culturally more tempted to be biased. The ‘human aspect’ of HR-departments to assess recruits in China is fading away fast, and replaced by AI algorithms. But what about the bias and discrimination generated by AI in HR assessments? As always, China will first unleash technology to its full potential and regulate later, while the EU intends to do the opposite in order to protect citizens’ fundamental rights. The war for talent just got a little more interesting.

    3. Taoism & fairy godmother cultures

    The Taoist philosophy intends for a laisser-faire, hands-off, self-organized and more fluid leadership style. “Invisible hand” and “empowering” dictate the mantra of the leader, who isn’t really a boss. This authentic, servant leadership style is both employee and customer centric. It offers employees more freedom and autonomy, but hinders task orientation and speed to compete against godmother and marshal companies in China who often scale faster as their employees promptly follow orders. Simply said, China’s business environment requires collective discipline above individual volatility. This Taoist leadership model is the favourite Chinese model for Western business leaders as it stands for a strong agility (adoptability to change) and innovation through creation.

    I name these organizational styles “fairy godmothers” (like in Walt Disney’s Peter Pan) of which the leaders are the embodiment of hope and are devoted to making dreams come true. This type of companies operates as a chaotic guerrilla network that thinks asymmetrically. Companies like Alibaba, Tencent or Hai’er are examples of this management style. Especially Hai’er which is often used in case studies in business schools, has created an open innovation model that broke down all walls and silos of departments and made an entrepreneur from every manager. They experiment constantly with new ideas in order not to become complacent. Employees expect constant change as it became part of their cultural DNA, while good practices are kept safe. Teams reinforce each other through their resilience and stay alert. It’s like magic.

    These Taoist companies deploy technology to aid people – internally and externally. The Confucian value of “renqing” (translated as human feelings) resonates in this environment. ‘Renqing’ is known as the debt of reciprocity. If you do someone a favour, then it is expected that you repay that favour. It functions like a bank account of favours between people. It’s the Chinese equivalent for “I scratch your back, you scratch mine”. In China, trust is less based on the capacity to help, and more on the security that favours will be returned over time when needed – sometimes in a distant future even. The Taoist leadership style is extremely effective in times of crisis, as people can adapt quickly. Since COVID19, this style has gained a lot more attention. As the world has become an extremely complex network, business leaders need to start thinking as a node in a network to succeed.

    The power of combination

    We cannot conclude that any of these three leadership styles are more effective than the other. The Confucian godfather style is the most aligned with China’s traditional societal norms and habits, and is hence very powerful in China. The Legalist marshal style closely follows the traditional governance system of China, and is hence very effective. The Taoist godmother style suits China’s modern miracle the best, and is hence very forward-looking.

    The true success of Chinese organisations is not only due to either of these leadership styles. Chinese companies combine all three of them – consciously or not – and add on top of that a dash of Western leadership. These Western management models were introduced by the Western consultancy companies, by Chinese managers who studied overseas or through hiring foreign experts and managers into Chinese organizations. Especially, the younger companies like Bytedance, Royole or iCarbonX feel more like Silicon Valley than any stereotypical image of a traditional Chinese management style.

    So the answer to “what can we learn from Chinese leadership styles?” is not to look at how different they are from Western styles, but at how effective they are in each of their purposes. We can learn so much from companies like Huawei, Hai’er, Ping’An, Alibaba, Bytedance, Ctrip, and many more, on how their blended leadership style got them to become global market leaders. What makes Chinese leadership models so solid is that they combine the best of all worlds!

    nexxworks Collective spotlight: Education in the Day After Tomorrow with Raya Bidshahri 960 nexxworks Collective spotlight: Education in the Day After Tomorrow with Raya Bidshahri Mon, 17 May 2021 16:00:00 +0000 This first episode of our ‘nexxworks Collective spotlight’ is dedicated to Raya Bidshahri, who’s a serial entrepreneur, author, futurist, educator and keynote speaker. As the Founder and CEO of Awecademy and The School of Humanity, Raya is one of the world’s leading experts in alternative models in education, the future of work and exponential innovation. She has been featured by the BBC as one of the 100 most influential and inspirational women globally and is a member of the Bett Global Education Council.

    Earlier this month, Raya launched a radically new type of educational organization: The School of Humanity. The latter is an online high school where learners develop future fluencies by solving global challenges. The aim of this approach is to equip the next generation with the skills and mindsets required to accelerate human progress.

    With her bold ideas and projects, it’s safe to say that Raya is one of the most powerful movers and shakers in the world of education. Enjoy her favourite and most recent clips and podcasts!

    For more information about Raya, check her speaker page

    Neuroscience and Education with Raya Bidshahri

    What is the role of universities in a digital world?

    Education, Mental Health, and Burning Man

    5 successful strategies to create a company culture that results in a fantastic customer experience 960 5 successful strategies to create a company culture that results in a fantastic customer experience Wed, 12 May 2021 07:53:00 +0000 Steven Van Belleghem But what exactly are the ingredients of company culture that drive a fantastic customer experience? That’s what I wanted to investigate with this piece.

    Communicate a crystal clear customer vision

    Every fantastic customer experience starts with a customer obsessed vision. The link between a customer experience driven culture and business success is perhaps most clear at Amazon, where “Customer obsession” is its No. 1 leadership principle:

    “Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.”

    But it’s not enough to integrate customer obsession in your vision and your strategy. You need to make sure that everyone – not just leadership – is looking in the same direction and knows, lives and breathes your customer relationship vision. It’s crucial that you figure out how you can translate your high-level strategy to the life and the context of every last employee. This results in a sense a purpose and a strong connection to your vision. The only way to achieve that is to literally convince all your employees one by one.

    At CoolblueBezorgt, for example, the delivery service of Coolblue, every presentation of CEO Pieter Zwart starts with the Net Promoter Score or NPS (the percentage of how likely customers are to recommend a company, a product, or a service to a friend or colleague). And each morning, employees are shown their NPS-scores of the day before so that they can celebrate or learn from that. This is how you get employees to share in the vision: with clear communication and by involving them every step of the way.

    Hire for diversity

    Society is a delightful potpourri of different nationalities, religions and cultures. Your workforce should reflect this diversity on all levels. How else will your people be able to understand what customers need, want and expect? It is very unfortunate that so many companies are still biased to hire WEIRD profiles, an acronym for people who are Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, And Democratic. Society isn’t WEIRD, and your customers certainly aren’t, so it’s only smart to have your team reflect the outside world.

    But it’s not just cultural diversity that is important, it’s cognitive diversity as well. It is very comfortable and easy to hire people that will fit “your culture” and who think and talk alike. That’s a great approach, but this is too often translated into “we hire people who act and think just like us” and this is completely detrimental for innovation of any kind, especially when it comes to customer experience. Always hire for diversity.

    Empower your team to aim for customer happiness

    According to the Gallop Organization, organizations that empower employees, experience 50% higher customer loyalty. Zappos’ belated CEO, Tony Hsieh, which was a fantastic example of a customer obsessed company, completely understood that. He knew that customer experience was not something that could be molded into a script or a rule-book. Every customer is different and every customer context too. And so it’s impossible to make them happy with fixed scripts. The experience becomes just awful when they need to wait for a very long time because the organization is so hierarchical that every ‘special’ decision needs to be validated by management.

    And so Hsieh trusted and empowered his employees on all levels to make their own decisions as long as they had customer happiness in mind. We all know that wonderful story of Zappos employee and his customer-service call that lasted 10 hours and 43 minutes.

    An added bonus is that a culture of empowerment attracts the best talent. High potential employees don’t like to be confined with rigid rules and hierarchy. They need freedom and trust to make their own decisions.

    Create a psychologically safe environment

    A culture of customer obsession stands and fall with experimenting. Amazon, for instance, has the One-Way and Two-Way Door rule to stimulate this. About 99% of all customer improvements function like a two-way door: the impact of a possible failure of this type of small-scale experiments will always be so low that you’ll be able to retrace your footsteps – and go back through the door – without losing face, heaps of money and – worst of all – customers. But then there’s the remaining 1% of customer improvements, the ones that will deliver massive value when they do succeed. But these One-Way Doors tend to be a lot riskier, because you will not be able to turn your decision around if they fail, without feeling an extensive negative impact. So it’s important to think these innovations through and through before you launch them.

    So what does this have to with culture? Well, you cannot expect employees to experiment with new customer experience approaches and then punish them when things go wrong. That is just the nature of experiments: that you try something and that very often it will just not work out. The trick is to perform this most of the time (except for the One-Way Door experiments, of course) on such a small scale that the failure will have as little impact as possible. And never finger point and blame those who were bold enough to try something new. Instead, try to figure out together why it didn’t work and look for something that can. If you don’t, people will just stop trying, innovation will dry up and customers will leave you for those who do innovate to make the experience better.

    Don’t fall into the KPI trap

    Sometimes, companies measure the wrong things and use the wrong metrics. Let’s say that a company wants to deliver top quality and sustainable products. That’s a great strategy, right? But how would you measure that? One way would be to tie that strategy to the returns of your product, let’s say with a metric of ‘less than 5% returns’. The expectation would then be that your customer service team will gather data about the weak spots of returned products and then deliver this feedback to your engineers who could then improve them. Less returns would follow from that approach.

    But if your team is working towards the metric instead of the strategy, this shortcut will be much more likely to happen: they might strive to make the return policy and process so complex, difficult and hard to find that the rate of returns would indeed plummet. This would obviously result in a lot of frustrated customers and a dangerous informational blindness about the blind spots in your products.

    It’s crucial that you understand the solid marriage between KPIs, culture and customer experience: if your company is purely KPI-driven and it has a ‘failure is not an option’ type of culture, employees will take shortcuts to meet these KPIs in ways that will be detrimental for the customer experience.

    So, these are my 5 tips for creating a company culture that results in a fantastic customer experience:

    1. Communicate a crystal clear customer vision
    2. Hire for diversity
    3. Empower your team to aim for customer happiness
    4. Create a psychologically safe environment that drives experiments
    5. Don’t fall into the KPI trap

    I hope to have delivered some inspiration and I’m very curious to hear how you organize your company culture to benefit the experiences of your customers.

    The 5 most common mistakes in corporate innovation 960 The 5 most common mistakes in corporate innovation Fri, 07 May 2021 12:34:00 +0000 Mistake 1: discouraging failure

    For innovation to succeed, you need to learn how to fail. I know that sounds like a paradox, yet failure and innovation are closely connected.

    Many companies have a culture that discourages any kind of failure. If you fail at something, that means no more promotions, no more raises and maybe even the end of your time at the company. Which is appropriate if the mistake was the result of gross negligence, but according to Harvard Business School professor Amy C. Edmondson that constitutes very little of the failures inside a company, in general only around 2-5% of the total. The rest are perfectly predictable failures, or even failures that can be harnessed for good.

    Failure is key for innovation. For something new to work, a team needs to quickly test different approaches, and see which ones work, and which ones don’t. You need to experiment and communicate openly about what went right and wrong. But if even the smallest failure results in a blame game and lowered bonuses, that becomes impossible. People start to hide their failures, and all the learnings that come with them.

    Or as David Kelley, the founder of the legendary design firm IDEO (the company that designed the computer mouse for Apple), once said: “fail often in order to succeed sooner.”

    Mistake 2: lack of agility

    Agile might be a buzzword in the innovation space, but it’s still key to running a successful corporate innovation program.

    You will need interdisciplinary teams that can move fast and adapt accordingly. They need to be able to experiment quickly, to set up little tests, and based on the results quickly change the project and adapt it along the way. When a good fit is found between a new project and what customers need, it can be scaled up throughout the company.

    Yet it’s easy for a company, particularly a large corporate, to let new projects be bogged down in endless meetings. Innovation is hard if you, for example, need to wait three months before IT solves a software issue for a new product, or if you need to ask for permission from three different managers whenever you want to launch a new experiment.

    Which is why McKinsey, for example, called for a transformation of big organisations from their traditional model of hierarchy, bureaucracy and silos (or seeing an organisation as a “machine”) to an agile model where the focus is on action and flexibility (where the organisation works as an “organism”).

    Mistake 3: no management buy-in

    Innovation might need agile, bottom-up energy, but it also needs help from the top-down.

    Any innovation project needs buy-in from management. If not, there’s very little possibility of innovations scaling up. You end up with pilot projects, where new technologies and innovations are tested out, but never scaled up throughout the organisation. It results in fun experiments with new technologies like AI that are nice to show off to the public, but produce very little value for the real business of the company. Eventually innovation projects flounder, produce little ROI and are cut off from funding.

    KPMG for example showed in their Benchmarking Innovation Impact 2020 report that 45% of the respondents inside big businesses say that innovation and strategy are “only somewhat connected, or not at all connected or aligned” inside their companies. On top of that, 60% of the respondents noted that their innovation projects were “ad hoc or emerging” and had very little real integration with the rest of the business.

    Mistake 4: too much focus on technology

    Innovation is often equated with technology. Of course technology is important, and things like AI, 5G and blockchain might change our future in deep ways.

    But that doesn’t mean that every innovation project needs to solely focus on one specific technology. Too much focus on technology over market might even kill innovation. Innovation often revolves around filling in customer needs, technology only comes second. If you put technology first, you might fall in love with the solution rather than the problem.

    This is a well-known issue in the start-up world. It’s a common mistake that a founder gets caught up in the technical details of their product, and loses sight of what the market really wants. When CB Insights calculated why start-ups failed, they found that 14% did so because they ignored their customers. 17% also failed because their technology lacked a business model.

    Mistake 5: strangling start-ups

    Corporate innovation often means cooperation with start-ups, or sometimes even acquiring them.

    But even though beautiful things can happen when start-ups and corporates join together, it can also result in friction. A corporate culture can strangle a start-up, with long meetings, risk-avoidance, a short-term revenue vision and sales cycles slowing down the fast pace of innovation.

    A study by the innovation foundation Nesta, found that speed is the biggest obstacle for start-up-corporate collaboration. Around 50% of start-ups report issues in this area. Problems like coordination of projects, or a mismatch in culture, are also highly common.

    A good cooperation with start-ups isn’t just about setting up fun projects or even an accelerator, it means aligning your strategy and culture with those of an external player, and finding a symbiosis that works for both parties.

    There’s no magical recipe for corporate innovation, of course. It’s not about doing three specific things and then becoming the Apple or Alibaba of your industry. But there are definite some “don’ts” if you want to keep yourself relevant in The Day After Tomorrow and these were 5 of the most common ones. Let us know if we missed some important mistakes in our list!

    Everything that’s wrong with modern management 960 Everything that’s wrong with modern management Tue, 04 May 2021 12:43:00 +0000 Guest contributor Laetitia Vitaud When you’re interested in the history of management and organisations, Jack Welch’s name comes up often. I even showed videos of him in my classes and used him repeatedly as the perfect illustration of 1980s management. So the news of his death in March did not go unnoticed to me. The CEO of General Electric between 1981 and 2001 was a business legend and an iconic figure of modern management and all its woes.

    This piece is a repost from Laetitia Vitaud’s newsletter Laetitia@Work

    He embodied the 1980s (and 1990s), together with Ronald Reagan and Wall Street’s Gordon Gekko. “Greed is good”, Gekko’s most memorable cue, could have come from Welch. His legacy is enormous. We owe him a ton of management concepts, as well as inspirational quotes and HR principles, a lot of bad things, and some good things too. Indeed Welch must have been a genuinely nice guy (but, hey, a lot of people with a dubious legacy were actually nice guys).

    So I will dedicate this piece to some of Welch’s legacy and share a few thoughts on what’s wrong with modern management. Read along.

    A mechanistic view of the corporation where people are cogs

    In many ways Jack Welch’s GE is the embodiment of the large corporation that really invented modern management. It’s the quintessential illustration of the “visible hand” at work! The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business is probably the single most interesting book ever written about management (I’m biased! It’s certainly because it was written by a historian). This 1977 must-read by Alfred D. Chandler deals with the “revolution” brought about by large-scale business enterprise and its managers.

    The main idea of the book is that after 1850 (and the railroad revolution), the visible hand of managers replaced what Adam Smith called the “invisible hand” of market forces. “Managerial capitalism” saw the rise of a new class of professional managers in charge of running industrial empires that spanned several geographies and sectors. The first management schools were created at the peak of the railroad revolution, but management really became a respected academic discipline later, in the mid-twentieth century with the likes of Peter Ferdinand Drucker. Welch did not study management (he was a chemical engineer) but his career as a manager represents the peak of managerial capitalism.

    His view of the corporation—and that’s what GE was under his CEO-ship—was mechanistic (after all it’s no coincidence he was first an engineer): organisations are machines designed to conquer markets and generate profits. Humans are resources that must be carefully aligned on the chart (like cogs). Competition drives innovation. And meritocracy reigns supreme. (Yes, there are only men at the top, but according to the Welch worldview, it’s not because women are discriminated against, it’s because women won’t be as fully devoted to their jobs as men).

    To understand how this worldview and type of organisation is different from others, there is no better grid than the one provided by Frédéric Laloux in his book Reinventing Organizations (for a summary, see my article here). Laloux explained how organisations evolved from a very primitive form, “Red” (small organisations based on arbitrary violence like packs of wolves), to more sophisticated bureaucracies that could pursue long-term projects, “Amber”, to a third model he calls “Orange”.

    Achievement Orange, the third paradigm, is based on efficiency, materialism, and science. Its main advantages are innovation, an objective-based management that leaves more freedom in the means to achieve the objectives, and meritocracy. As Laloux wrote, “The transition to Orange brought a new prevailing metaphor. A good organization is not a wolf pack or army, but a machine. Corporate leaders adopted engineering terms to describe their work: they designed the company, using inputs and outputs, information flows, and bottlenecks; they downsized the staff and reengineered their companies. Most large, mainstream publicly listed companies operate with Orange management practices.”

    But Welch’s Orange paradigm (which is still dominant in many organisations) has so many limits. It doesn’t take human bias into account, sociological phenomena, externalities, psychology, higher purpose, spirituality… nor anything else that truly matters. The Orange corporation doesn’t take the impact of production into account—pollution and inequality, for example. It fails to produce individual and collective meaning to those who belong to them. “As the Orange paradigm grew dominant, it also encouraged short-term thinking, corporate greed, overconsumption, and the reckless exploitation of the planet’s resources and ecosystems. Increasingly, whether we are powerful leaders or low-ranking employees, we feel that this paradigm isn’t sustainable. The heartless and soulless rat race of Orange organizations has us yearning for more.” (Laloux)

    Paradoxically enough, although Jack Welch embodied the “visible hand” of management (which is incompatible with the “invisible hand” of market forces), he fundamentally believed in market forces and meritocracy. The “best people” at the top of the organisation were paid X times more than their predecessors not because of the visible hand (i.e. they had the power to compensate themselves more than ever before) but because of the invisible hand (of the free market). Executive compensation should continue to increase faster than the compensation of the working class because 1. the system is fully meritocratic and top managers are the best of the best ; 2. the free market says so.

    Understandably Welch was criticised for his lack of compassion for workers. When he was asked about his excessive CEO pay compared to the pay of ordinary workers, he would grow mad and argue that his pay was dictated by the “free market”, and that no one should interfere with that. As far as executive pay is concerned, Welch was soon followed by a large clique of top managers, many of whom would manage to have the “free market” pay them even more. He was not alone.

    You know what I think of people who constantly speak of meritocracy (in a previous piece I mentioned Daniel Markovits’s The Meritocracy Trap): the places where people speak the most about meritocracy are the places where there is the least meritocracy. Welch based GE’s HR management entirely on the meritocracy fallacy, and it had deleterious consequences on people, and women in particular. One of the HR legacies that best illustrated that (and that has since been abandoned at GE) is the concept of the vitality curve.

    Why the vitality curve illustrates what’s wrong with the managerial revolution

    The vitality curve, also known as stack ranking, was introduced by Jack Welch at GE in the 1980s. It is an employee evaluation method whereby the managers of a company are asked to rank all their employees on a bell curve. The model assumes a “normal” distribution of the employees in which, typically, 10 percent are ranked as “top performers,” 80 percent as “satisfactory,” and 10 percent as “underperformers” who are detrimental to the company (and must be fired). When evaluating the staff, managers must assign each individual to a category so that the percentages remain constant. In other words, even if every single employee does his or her job perfectly well, there must always be 10 percent of “unsatisfactory” employees. Jack Welch argued that it motivates mid-range employees to do their best to become “top performers.”

    Welch was adamant that top performers should be rewarded and that “slackers” shouldn’t get paid for harming company results. His beloved meritocracy principle could translate to an evaluation system that would effectively motivate the best and brightest and make it possible to let go of the worst underperformers. So he implemented a three-step scale with 15 percent of “1s,” 75 percent of “2s” and 10 percent of “3s,” who had to be fired if they didn’t improve. The model was referred to as “Rank and Yank” and became popular with many managers in the following decades. Microsoft, IBM, and Yahoo are some of the companies that adopted it.

    Initially the approach seemed to work quite well for GE, but after decades of “Rank and Yank”, managers were forced to become intellectually dishonest. To conform to the model’s requirements, they had to categorise as “bottom 10 percent” excellent employees who had not spent enough time promoting themselves to their managers. The result was that employees started spending more time worrying about being seen by their managers as top employees than actually being top employees. And of course there were so many biases at every stage.

    Eventually GE, and other companies like Microsoft, abandoned stack ranking. It became harder to use “meritocracy” as a shield to defend every management decision. Today the model is more and more controversial, and fewer companies use it than did twenty years ago. A few, like Facebook and Amazon, still do.

    The vitality curve is now known to discourage cooperation and encourage unethical behaviour. In this evaluation model, only individual performance is rated. But in fact very few employees succeed on their own. Why create a zero-sum game that prevents teamwork? In a Darwinian “survival of the fittest” model, employees are pitted against one another, which also makes them extremely unhappy (and less productive).

    Why Welch’s worldview was detrimental to women

    Jack Welch may not have been the most obvious, virulent kind of male-chauvinist, but his legacy can’t exactly be said to have helped women break the glass-ceiling and gain more equality. Whenever somebody mentioned the gender gap or asked him about his policies to empower women, he would brandish his meritocracy shield and say “let the best man win”. Why should one group of people be supported if you think you have an environment where the best man can always win? He was probably sincerely convinced that he wasn’t a sexist. (As Yes Minister’s Sir Humphrey would say, “We must always promote the best man for the job, regardless of sex”.)

    Yet his view of talent was heavily biased against women. It valued “strong” leaders who did their best to be seen by others as the best and put their own interests forward. Most women were raised to put the interest of the group first and not brag about their individual successes. Most women were educated in a way that prevents them from thriving in such managerial environments.

    There’s a concept used in psychology known as locus of control which is relevant here. It is a person’s belief system regarding the causes of their success or failure. Somebody who has an internal locus of control attributes their success to their own efforts and abilities. By contrast, someone who has an external locus of control attributes his or her success to luck or fate (and the support of others). There is no right and wrong here: obviously success and failure depend both on internal and external factors. But people with an internal locus of control tend to be rewarded more in individualistic Orange organisations, in particular in vitality curve systems. And there is evidence that, when it comes to academic and corporate achievement, men tend to have a more internal locus of control than women. The silver-back gorillas who thump their chests and act tough tend to win in such environments. (A few years ago I wrote this piece about the “gorilla-take-all society”).

    Last but not least, when it comes to work-life balance, Jack Welch once said, “there’s no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.” The question of “choice” was precisely the subject of my newsletter last week whose conclusion was that you can’t keep ignoring the architecture of choice that pushes women to make some “choices”, like working part-time, staying at home, saving less, moving into badly paid professions, looking after the kids, and so on and so forth.

    Many women must have struggled under Welch’s widely praised management. Obviously he had a strong internal locus of control and probably died convinced that he was the agent of GE’s extraordinary performance under his CEO-ship. But the truth is he was just a man of his time and only excelled at complying with what the business paradigm expected of leaders in the 1980s and 1990s: submitting the management of people to maximising shareholder value. Good timing begets success indeed, but we need something different today. I like to call it craftsmanship, or empowerment. Can management be replaced by something else that nurtures autonomy, responsibility and creativity, as well as a sense of community and purpose?

    Nexxworks welcomes Upgrade Estate Founders Nele Van Damme & Koenraad Belsack as Partners 960 Nexxworks welcomes Upgrade Estate Founders Nele Van Damme & Koenraad Belsack as Partners Mon, 03 May 2021 07:46:00 +0000 On top of that, nexxworks has also been investing in expanding its internal network of team members, welcoming Sofie Kegels (ex-Deloitte) as Business Development Manager and Carlo D'Agnolo (ex-Lancio) as Digital Marketing Expert.

    Kindred spirits

    The synergy between nexxworks and Upgrade Estate should not come as a surprise, seeing that Nele and Koenraad are long-time customers and both companies have always had the habit of seeking to collaborate on the future of their customers and other stakeholders. An example is the ‘What’s Up Nexxt’ project: collaborative trend events for their shared networks. And since April 2020, the nexxworks team has also been residing in the Upgrade Academy building, bringing both closer together than ever.

    “Nexxworks was founded on the principle of ‘The Network Always Wins’ and right from the start of our interaction with Nele and Koenraad, it was clear that this was one of the most ecosystem-driven companies we ever met”, says nexxworks CEO Julie Vens-De Vos about their compatibility. “They are not just a building company. Every project of theirs has a human sidetrack, like their student coaches or the Upgrade Academy for their stakeholders. Add to that their incredible innovation mindset, continuous entrepreneurial drive and daring long-term outlook, and it should be clear why our companies are such a great match.”

    “The high-level vision of the international nexxworks thought leaders and their innovation network is furthermore completely compatible with the down-to-earth local entrepreneurial experience from the Upgrade Estate ecosystem”, says Koenraad Belsack. “What’s more, both of our organizations strive to achieve business and social impact in an almost obsessive manner, which has always brought us together”, Nele Van Damme adds. “We’re really excited and looking forward to the serendipitous synergies that will come out of this”, concludes Julie.

    About Upgrade Estate

    Upgrade Estate realizes and manages connective housing for students and young professionals and has an unrivalled ability to respond to the needs of these target groups. Its integrated management makes it clear what they stand for as a business: attractive shared spaces, greenery, excellent value for money, convenience for both tenant and investor and a ‘living coach’ as a connecting factor. This gives more than 2500 tenants the 'time of their lives' in their projects.

    About nexxworks

    Nexxworks inspires and connects innovators all over the world. We help organizations kickstart their innovation – through our many innovation programs – by confronting them with the latest evolutions in business and technology and by encouraging them to combine a long-term vision with short-term initiatives. Our thought-leading community of innovation keynote speakers Raya Bidshahri, Pascal Coppens, Jessica Groopman, Peter Hinssen, Jerry Michalski, Nancy Rademaker, April Rinne, Steven Van Belleghem and Rik Vera is the beating heart of our network.

    Our customers are local and international innovation-thirsty profiles, who are eager to uncover the exciting business possibilities that come with exponential change and (technology) disruption. To help and inspire them, we collaborate with a very diverse ecosystem of renowned thought-leaders, disruptive start-ups, C-level corporate pioneers, experts, academics, investors, consultants and highly innovative entrepreneurs.

    PODCAST: Radar - by nexxworks April 2021 960 PODCAST: Radar - by nexxworks April 2021 Thu, 29 Apr 2021 19:30:00 +0000 The past month we had plenty of exciting news in the world of business and technology. The Radar crew discussed topics like Amazon opening a hair salon in London, Ibrahim Ouassari (CEO of MolenGeek) joining Proximus’ board, phoenix company Walmart investing in Self-Driving EV Company Cruise, Elon Musk’s adventures in China, the EU’s AI regulation plans, Google’s advertising business, employee research by Microsoft, the central digital bank currency in China (which no one seems to be talking about although this is a pretty big deal) and the new trend of psychedelics start-ups (if Peter Thiel invests in it, it’s probably a thing).

    Enjoy the episode and please be so kind as to share it or rate us and follow our channel, if you like what you hear:

    As a fun bonus, here are the long distance haircuts in China Pascal was talking about:

    Hungry for more insights? Check our awesome collection of e-books by Peter Hinssen, Pascal Coppens, Rik Vera, Steven Van Belleghem, Laurence Van Elegem and many more:

    Free crash-course: understanding world trends to better navigate the future 960 Free crash-course: understanding world trends to better navigate the future Wed, 21 Apr 2021 14:39:00 +0000 Laurence Van Elegem And so, it’s only logical that business leaders of all levels understand what is exactly happening in the world and where it is heading, in order to make smart decisions about their employees, products, services, supply chain, marketing and every last aspect of their company.

    Curious about the big shocks & smaller shifts that will be shaping the world? Become a Mission CX Member!

    That’s why I wanted to list a collection of highly relevant podcast episodes about the latest paradigm shifts and trends in economy, geopolitics, society and the environment. What you’ll find here are elite speakers with unique ideas, some of which significantly changed the way I look at the world and our future.

    You can immerse yourself in this crash course in two ways:

    • You can listen here, in your browser, where I neatly grouped the episode according to their connection to the themes economy, geopolitics, society and the environment. (Most of them are of course connected to all of these themes in some way or other as such is the ‘wicked’ nature of all world challenges.)
    • Or, you can listen on this Spotify list, where I gathered them all in one beautiful place (including some bonus episodes, y’all) and where I will regularly add extra ones that cross my path (seeing that these types of podcasts are my absolute favourite type).



    Mariana Mazzucato - Stop Whining About Big Government

    Economist Mariana Mazzucato has demonstrated that the real driver of innovation isn't about lone geniuses but state investment. Listen to this episode to find out why, and how, and what that means for governments and companies like yours:

    Tim Wu - What America Failed to Learn from the Gilded Age

    Greed and disregard for the working class defined the Gilded Age. The economic disparities that were forged back then are still affecting our country today. And monolithic companies like Facebook and Apple continue to grow, leaving a burning question of whether big tech has too much power. In this episode, Tim Wu, a Columbia law professor and author of “The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age,” talks about the economic and social changes that took place then, and how they set the stage for modern America.

    Carlota Perez - Technological Revolutions, transition periods and golden ages

    Carlota Perez is a Venezuelan-British lecturer and author, specialized in the social and economic impact of technical change. Her bestseller “Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages” is one of the most popular works about the relations between technical and institutional change, finance and technological diffusion and technology and economic development. Carlota believes that we have arrived at the turning point of the current, fifth technological revolution. These types of turning point are unfortunately characteristically difficult and unstable (unemployment, recession, populism, anger etc.). But they also suggest that we are on the verge of a new golden age.


    Kate Crawford - Mapping AI’s Societal Impact

    AI is not just code and algorithms. It’s an industry built on a global network of resource extraction, human labor, and data collection. Kate Crawford, senior principal researcher at Microsoft Research and research professor of communication and science and technology studies at USC Annenberg, joins Azeem Azhar to explore the far-reaching impact of AI and to consider the urgent case for proper governance and regulation of the industry.

    Rachel Botsman - Trust Falls

    We are in the middle of a global trust crisis. To replace the void, we turn to sharing economy companies and social media, which come up short, or worse. In this episode, Rachel Botsman, Trust Fellow at Oxford University and author, talks about how we got here, and how we can recover.

    Robert Putnam - On Community & Social Capital

    Political scientist Robert D. Putnam’s (Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University and author) latest research takes a look at trends over the last century which have brought us from an “I” society to a “We” society and then back again. Listen to this episode to learn what lessons can be drawn from the past, especially at a time of increased economic inequality, political polarisation and loss of social capital and trust, all of which are playing out against the backdrop of a global pandemic?

    Tristan Harris - Welcome to the Cult Factory

    In this episode, ‘Making Sense’ host Sam Harris speaks with computer scientist and ethicist Tristan Harris about the ways in which social media is fracturing society. They discuss the rise in teen depression and suicide, political polarization, conspiracy theories, information warfare, the decoupling of power and responsibility, the distinctions between platforms and publishers, the cancellation of Alex Jones, social media-inspired ethnic cleansing, concerns about the upcoming presidential election, culture as an operating system, and other topics.


    Elizabeth Kolbert - Can we fix the planet the same way we broke it?

    Pulitzer Prize-winning climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert assesses the current state of the climate crisis and answers a simple question: how screwed are we? And as the climate continues to warm at a record pace, she unpacks some of the more extreme climate solutions that some increasingly desperate nations are starting to consider. Such measures may sound like stuff of science fiction (see: injecting sulfur particles into the atmosphere or shooting millions of tiny orbital mirrors into outer space) as times become more desperate, their appeal is growing. Can we fix the planet the same way we broke it?

    David Wallace-Wells – Are we creating an ‘Uninhabitable Earth’?

    David Wallace-Wells is a journalist of New York Magazine and the author of the essay “The Uninhabitable Earth” (2017) as well as a huge bestselling book with the same title (2019). Both describe how dire the climate crisis is for the prospects of human civilization, going beyond the traditional portrayals of rising sea levels and extreme weather events, by focusing on how it also affects food security, access to freshwater, spread of communicable disease and armed conflict. In this episode, he talks about the multitude of interlinked problems created by climate change and how the media’s coverage of climate change has been misleading. Yet at the same time, he warns against taking a fatalistic view and points to the rapid development of renewable energy as a cause for optimism.

    Nathaniel Rich - Living In A World Remade

    Nathaniel Rich is an award-winning journalist and the author of Second Nature: Scenes From a World Remade. In 2019, he wrote "Losing Earth: A Recent History", and his 2016 New York Times Magazine article "The Lawyer Who Became DuPont's Worst Nightmare" was turned into the feature film "Dark Waters". In this episode, he describes what he's learned covering the scientists, politicians, and corporations that are reshaping our planet and its inhabitants for better and for worse.

    Paul Hawken - the intellectual environmentalist

    Entrepreneur Paul Hawken is one of the most renowned thinkers of the environmental movement. He has written a number of groundbreaking books, particularly on how business can work together with nature: ‘The Ecology of Commerce’ and ‘Natural Capitalism’. Now he’s taken on the monumental challenge of climate change - with ‘Drawdown’, an ambitious project that pulled together top researchers and scientists from around the world - to identify and rank the 100 most effective solutions to global warming. Not just to slow it down, but to reverse it. In this interview, Paul discusses the most important and bold ideas in Drawdown.


    Adam Curtis - Can't Get You Out of My Head

    In this episode, celebrated documentary film-maker Adam Curtis talks about his new series Can't Get You Out of My Head (which tells the history of the rise and fall of individualism) as well as China, technology, complex systems, Watergate, behaviouralism, feedback systems, fake stability, neoliberalism, Max Weber and conspiracy theories. 

    Ian Bremmer - Beyond the Pacific

    Ian Bremmer, the political scientist and founder of the Eurasia Group Foundation discusses the battle for influence in Europe. Are America’s current policies curbing  China’s economic and technological influence effectively, or will America’s “new Cold War” approach backfire, strengthening China’s ties to a part of the world in which America has long enjoyed a dominant influence?

    Chris Bickerton - Technopopulism

    Chris Bickerton teaches politics at Cambridge University and is the coauthor of Technopopulism: The New Logic of Democratic Politics.  In this episode, he discusses Technopopulism and how it is different from classic interest-based politics, how populists and technologists consider expertise and how he thinks we can move beyond technopopulism.

    Daniel Yergin - The New Map: Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations

    Daniel Yergin is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the Vice Chairman of IHSMarkit, a research and consulting firm. In this episode, he talks about his new book The New Map: Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations, how gas pipelines are redefining geopolitics, how a map drawn by Chinese “cartographic combatant” Bai Meichu in the 1930s helps explain the ongoing tensions in the South China Sea and why the world won’t quit using oil anytime soon.

    Congrats! You made it till the end of this blog! Which podcast episodes have changed the way you think about society, the economy, (geo)politics, the environment or other crucial world level themes? Tell me at I’d love to know!

    Become a Member of Mission NXT to understand how world trends will impact your company.

    Here’s the full list on Spotify, including some bonus episodes:

    What Does It Mean To Be Customer-Centric In 2021? 960 What Does It Mean To Be Customer-Centric In 2021? Wed, 21 Apr 2021 08:31:00 +0000 Guest Contributor Blake Morgan Led By Customer-Centric Leaders

    True customer-centricity starts at the top. The most customer-centric leaders set the example to ingrain a customer focus into the culture and make customers central to every decision the company makes.

    Truly customer-centric leaders systemize customer-focused leadership and development in their organizations to train the next generation of leaders how to serve and connect with customers. When training is an organized part of the company, customer-centricity becomes a long-term hallmark for the company instead of something fleeting that fades when a customer-centric leader leaves.

    Join Blake Morgan on our Mission CX program!

    Tricia Griffith is a customer-focused leader as CEO of Progressive Insurance. She sets the tone within the company by continually listening to customers and employees and taking risks to try new things to best serve customers. Her creative thinking around customers has created a culture where employees are encouraged and empowered to take big risks for customers. And her leadership makes a difference—Progressive is regularly included in lists of satisfied customers, and the company has a 94% employee satisfaction score. Clearly, customer-focused leaders make a difference.

    Focus on Personalization

    Modern customers have experienced hyper-personalization from big companies like Spotify, Amazon and Netflix and now expect every company, big and small, to offer high levels of personalization. In 2021, companies can’t afford to not prioritize personalization.

    Personalization is at the heart of customer-centricity. When a company is wholly focused on customers, it wants to deliver unique experiences to each person instead of one-size-fits-all solutions. Customer-centric companies know that simply plugging a customer’s name into a mass email isn’t enough—they need to create a unique experience tailored to each customer.

    Tesla focuses on personalization throughout the entire customer experience, but especially through its driver profiles. Tesla cars remember each driver’s preference for seat, steering wheel and mirror location, as well as suspension, braking, radio presets and even driving style. The seamless integration of driver profiles into the Tesla experience makes the car an extension of the driver and allows each person to drive the car in the way they want and that is most comfortable to them.

    Personalization comes in multiple forms, from AI-powered apps to recommendations and products designed specifically for each customer.

    Make Customers’ Lives Easier, Even If They Have To Work Harder

    One of the main things customers are looking for in 2021 is convenience. They want to be able to get the information and service they need on their schedules, not on the schedules of the brands they do business with. Customer-centric companies realize the importance of convenience and go out of their way to make customers’ lives easier, even if that means they have to work harder.

    It’s easier for companies to make customers call a contact center between certain hours to get help. But limited availability means customers are stuck to only getting assistance between certain hours and often having to sort through a difficult phone tree or explain their situation multiple times. A customer-centric alternative is a self-service option where customers can chat with a bot at any time of day or night and then be seamlessly transferred to a human agent if they need extra assistance. Self-service options may be more difficult for companies and require more time and resources, but they make customers’ lives easier.

    Undergo a Digital Transformation

    To succeed in the era of customer empowerment, companies must undergo a continual digital transformation to create digital solutions for their internal and external customers, tear down silos and use technology to solve everyday problems. When done well, digital transformation creates an agile and technology-driven company that can best meet customers’ needs. Companies shouldn’t undergo digital transformation simply to say they’ve done it or to adopt the flashiest technology; real digital transformation is rooted in solving customer problems and delivering a consistently high-quality experience.

    GE’s digital transformation included a radical restructuring of the company that created a new market and consolidated business units to report digital information on a straight path to the CEO. The radical transformation allowed the company to help customers with a digital-first approach and made digital the focus of the company.

    A customer-focused digital transformation shifts the mindset of the entire company to solve problems with digital solutions. In today’s world of technology, companies have to continually transform to stay relevant.

    Proactively Use Data

    There has never been more customer data available than there is today, and customer-centric companies use that data to paint an accurate picture of their customers. Some organizations may scratch the surface of data, but truly customer-centric brands use it to proactively serve customers. Predictive analytics can pinpoint when a customer is most in need of a product or service or when they might require changes or additional service. It’s at these moments that the best companies step in to offer support before customers even realize they need it. Customer-centric companies aren’t just focused on putting out fires or addressing concerns customers have with their products—they proactively aim to create positive experiences, recommend products and solve problems before they become larger issues.

    Sephora is as much a data company as it is a beauty company. With its wealth of customer data, Sephora uses its app to predict when customers will need to purchase new products and when they may be looking for something new. Other companies prioritize customers by predicting major life events that may trigger customers needing new products or advice.

    Innovate and Pivot

    If 2020 taught us anything, it’s the importance of agility. Customer trends and needs change at a rapid pace, and customer-centric companies can swiftly change direction to meet those needs, often even before customers realize the need for something new.

    Customer-centric companies aren’t afraid to take risks and innovate. No matter their size, they don’t get bogged down with red tape and bureaucracy and instead operate with a startup mentality to move and be agile. Companies that are truly focused on customers aim for continual innovation to bring the best products and services to customers.

    Customer-centricity is vital for companies in 2021. When a company is truly customer-centric, every decision and action is done with customers in mind. It’s the customer-centric companies that set the tone and lead the charge with loyal, satisfied customers.

    Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker and the author of the bestselling book The Customer Of The Future. She is also one of the top speakers of our Mission CX program. Sign up for her weekly newsletter here.

    This piece was first featured on Forbes.

    Is Amazon’s Flywheel Strategy Future-Proof? 960 Is Amazon’s Flywheel Strategy Future-Proof? Tue, 20 Apr 2021 09:48:00 +0000 Nancy Rademaker The robust online platform fueled by latest technologies has been the #1 driver for the successful implementation of their strategy. Being “customer-obsessed” has proven to be a winning attitude to grow traffic exponentially. Yet the company is increasingly being viewed as monopolistic and primarily focused on its own growth versus that of its sellers. The big question is “will the flywheel continue to fly?”

    In this ‘flywheel strategy’, growth is fueled by two important drivers: the sellers and the CX component. The next three paragraphs will discuss seller acquisition, seller retention, and augmenting the customer experience.

    Bringing more sellers to the platform

    Amazon is aiming to become the “everything store”. The expansion drive is huge, having developed from an online bookstore to a competitor in nearly every aspect of retail. And the hunger to sell nearly anything in the long run is unstoppable. From groceries, to medicine, to plants, to name just a few.

    The much talked about acquisition of Whole Foods in 2017 not only expanded their range of products to include groceries, it also provided them with a stronger offline footprint and extension of their delivery network.

    The acquisition of PillPack a year later was the first step in getting a foothold in the healthcare space. This is reinforced by leveraging the technology of its voice assistant Alexa, offering opportunities to monitor medical adherence, to allow patients to document their current state themselves and to even detect possible health conditions. With regards to the latter, a patent was filed to detect coughs or sniffs and suggest medicine or food to take in.

    2018 also saw the launch of the Amazon Plants Store. Despite being somewhat a niche sector, gardening means big business. And Amazon has the huge logistic infrastructure with both their 140 fulfilment centers and their Whole Foods offline grocery chain to compete with the traditional home and garden stores.

    Sellers Retention

    But it is not just about adding sellers by expanding the physical products, it is as much about expanding the financial services Amazon offers to ensure they retain sellers on their platform. The company has entered the space of business loans, particularly to small businesses. Of course, they have got the data (on revenue, sales, inventory, and customer service) AND the algorithms to allow them to accurately predict whether their merchants will be able to pay them back within 12 months. And because it is data-driven, it is fast: approval is within 24 hours, much faster than with any traditional lending company. Next to that, interest rates are reportedly low, and repayment is made convenient for merchants, with Amazon just taking a percentage of generated revenue on the platform.

    Payments is another area for Amazon to improve the sellers’ stickiness to their platform. Amazon Pay simplifies the payment process on the merchant’s side and offers a cheaper alternative with smaller fees compared to most credit card payments. The company does not need to make money out of the transactions, it is first and foremost another reinforcing tool to retain partners in their ecosystem. And it ensures customers’ stickiness as well of course, offering a better experience by allowing for a more convenient and speedy option to pay for their goods.

    Augmenting the Customer Experience

    As is being demonstrated by the flywheel, the customer experience is primarily being driven by a wide selection of products combined with low prices. However, being the customer-obsessed company Amazon claims to be involves more than that. Continuous improvements on convenience fuel the traffic. Technology plays a major role here, with data and AI at the forefront, enabling predictions on customer needs and customer behavior. But adding new services is equally crucial in augmenting the experience. Next to simplifying payment through Amazon Pay as discussed in the previous paragraph, adding insurance to products they are selling through Amazon Protect is equally contributing here. It basically just required a small change in their User Experience design, allowing customers to add the insurance through a single click.

    Looking Ahead

    There are some comments here I would like to leave you with.

    Firstly, although Amazon has an unmatched logistical infrastructure and a huge offline footprint for an online company, delivery costs may be rising too high, making it hard to keep up to their delivery promises. They may need to increase their offline presence to ensure last mile delivery or making sure this can be adequately done through technology, e.g. with drone deliveries.

    Secondly, recent add-ons of large brands to the platform may result in smaller businesses being outrun by their competition. It remains to be seen whose side – the bigger brands or the smaller businesses – Amazon is going to take.

    Thirdly, offering an ever-growing selection makes competition harder. It truly is a Winner Takes All situation. The flywheel is working at its best and with an ever-increasing number of sellers, Amazon can continue to charge them more to appear high on the list when products are being searched for. Adding to that, Alexa, like any voice assistant, will act as a gatekeeper for the Amazon platform. Any customer question on what product to buy provides an Amazon-favored result. According to many, Amazon is primarily focused on its own growth instead of their partners’, bringing to life Bezos’s statement that “your margin is my opportunity”. In that respect, it is much more of an empire than a true ecosystem. Being perceived as a monopolist by the outside world might be a threat to their future growth should businesses and brands back away. It remains to be seen if other platform giants, like AliBaba, will offer fierce competition. For one thing, AliBaba claims to offer this true ecosystem focused on partners’ growth.

    Peter Hinssen e-book: 10 vibes for the next decade - B 960 Peter Hinssen e-book: 10 vibes for the next decade - B Fri, 16 Apr 2021 07:13:00 +0000 Peter Hinssen In the very early stages of this exciting 21st century, only four things have happened that will go down in the history books:

    1. Digital became normal and ate the world,
    2. China woke up again after a very long nap,
    3. the financial system almost collapsed back in 2008,
    4. and just very recently a virus pressed the global pause button.

    Three ways to reach the next level of Customer Experience 960 Three ways to reach the next level of Customer Experience Tue, 13 Apr 2021 13:47:00 +0000 Pascal Coppens The 5 immutable laws of change 960 The 5 immutable laws of change Tue, 13 Apr 2021 06:35:00 +0000 Guest contributor Greg Satell Yet it wasn’t until the fall of 2004 that I truly understood the power of change. By then, I was living in Kyiv, Ukraine and the entire country erupted in protests now known as the Orange Revolution. While Warsaw in the 90s was like rebuilding after a tornado hit, Ukraine was like being in the eye of the storm itself.

    That experience led to a 15-year long journey of discovery and my book Cascades. What I found was that throughout history many have sought to create change and most have failed, but a few succeeded brilliantly. Starting out with very different challenges, philosophies and personalities, they eventually all arrived at the same principles that allowed them to prevail.

    Law #1: The Status Quo Has Inertia On Its Side And Never Yields Gracefully

    We tend to overvalue ideas. We think that if we have a good idea, people will immediately see its worth. Yet that’s hardly ever the case. As computer pioneer Howard Aiken put it, “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.”

    Consider the case of Ignaz Semmelweis, who first came up with the idea that medical staff in hospitals should wash their hands before operating on patients. You would think that would be an obviously good idea. Nevertheless, he was ostracized for it and ended up dying in an insane asylum, ironically from an infection he contracted under care.

    Semmelweis’s plight was tragic, but is also so amazingly common that the tendency for the establishment to reject ideas is referred to as the Semmelweis effect. In fact, while researching my book Mapping Innovation I interviewed dozens of successful innovators and I found that every single one had to overcome stiff resistance to transform their idea into something useful.

    The fact that you will face opposition when protesting an authoritarian regime is obvious, but an organizational environment can be just as cutthroat. Make no mistake. If your idea is important and has real potential for impact, there will be some who will hate it and they will work to undermine it in ways that are dishonest, underhanded and deceptive.

    That must be your primary design constraint.

    Law #2: Small Groups, Loosely Connected, But United By Shared Purpose Drive Transformational Change

    For decades, change consultants have been telling us that if we want to drive transformation, we should “start with a bang” and create a “sense of urgency” through a big communication campaign. The results have been atrocious. In fact, McKinsey has found that nearly three quarters of organizational transformations do not succeed.

    It’s not hard to understand why. If there are people who are determined to see your change fail—and every significant change encounters resistance—than a “rally the troops” type of approach will only serve to alert those who oppose change that they better get started undermining it or it might actually happen.

    Fortunately, science points to another way. The truth is that small groups, loosely connected, but united by a shared purpose drive transformational change. So instead of trying to convince everybody at once, identify those who are already enthusiastic about your idea, who want it to work as much as you do. Those are people you can empower to succeed and can help bring in others, who can bring in others still.

    Yet identifying advocates is only part of the battle. You also need to find imbue the effort with purpose and give it meaning. Unfortunately, all too often the quest for purpose is treated as a communication exercise. It isn’t. For change to be meaningful it has to actually solve a problem that people care about.

    Law #3: Revolutions Begin With A Cause, Not A Slogan

    Every change effort starts with a grievance. There’s something that people don’t like and they want it to be different. In a social or political movement that may be a corrupt leader or a glaring injustice. In an organizational context it’s usually something like falling sales, unhappy customers, low employee morale or technological disruption.

    Whatever the case may be, the first step toward bringing change about is understanding that getting mired in grievance won’t get you anywhere. You can’t just complain about things you don’t like, but must come up with an affirmative vision for how you would want things to be.

    The best place to start is by asking yourself, “if I had the power to change anything, what would it look like?” For example, Martin Luther King Jr.s vision for the civil rights movement was for a Beloved Community while Bill Gates’s vision for Microsoft was for a “computer in every home.” A good vision should be aspirational, but not totally out of reach.

    One of the things I found in my research is that successful change leaders don’t try to move from grievance to vision in one step, but rather identify a Keystone Change, which focuses on a clear and tangible goal, includes multiple stakeholders and paves the way for future change, to bridge the gap.

    For King, the Keystone Change was voting rights. For Gates it was an easy-to-use operating system. For your vision, it will undoubtedly be something different. The salient point here is that every successful transformation I found started out with a Keystone Change, so that’s where you will want to start as well.

    Law #4: Design Tactics That Mobilize People to Influence Institutions

    Organizational change consultants often recommend that changemakers prepare a stakeholder map. This isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but it is somewhat inadequate because it fails to distinguish between different kinds of stakeholders. Some stakeholders are targets for mobilization and others are targets for influence.

    For example, both parents and school boards are important stakeholders in education, but for very different reasons. School boards wield institutional power that can effect change, parents do not, so we mobilize parents to influence school boards, not the other way around. We need to approach constituencies and institutions in very different ways.

    One of the things we’ve consistently found in our work helping organizations to drive transformational change is that leaders construe stakeholders far too narrowly. Fortunately, decades of non-violent activism have given us powerful tools for both: the Spectrum of Allies for constituencies and the Pillars of Support for institutions.

    A crucial point to remember is that you can’t dictate change by mandate. You can’t overpower, but must attract people and empower them so that they can take ownership of the cause and make it their own. You need to accept that people will do things for their own reasons, not for yours.

    Most of all, remember that every action has to have a clear purpose and be directed at influencing specific institutions. So before taking any action, ask two questions: Who are we mobilizing and to influence what?

    Law #5: Every Revolution Inspires Its Own Counter-Revolution

    In the aftermath of the Orange Revolution we thought we had won. After all, we had stood up to the injustice of a falsified election and prevailed. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way. Five years later, Viktor Yanukovych, the same man who we had taken to the streets to prevent from office, rose to power in an election that international observers deemed free and fair. His corrupt and incompetent rule would trigger a second Ukrainian Revolution.

    We find a similar pattern with many of the executives we work with. They work for months—and sometimes years—to get a project off the ground. Yet just when they think they’re turning the corner, when they’ve won executive sponsorship, signed up key partners and procured enough financing to have a realistic budget, all the sudden things seem to get mired down.

    That’s no accident. Just because you’ve won a few early battles doesn’t mean opposition to your idea has melted away. On the contrary, faced with the fact that change may actually succeed, those who oppose it have probably just begun to redouble their efforts to undermine it. These efforts are often not overt, but they are there and can easily derail an initiative.

    That’s why every change effort must learn how to survive victory. The truth is that change is always a journey, never a particular destination, which is why lasting change is always built on common ground. That doesn’t mean that you need to win over your fiercest critics, but it does mean you need to try to empathize with their perspective.

    There is a reason why some change leaders succeed while others fail. At some point everybody needs to decide whether they would rather make a point or make a difference and, in the end, those that prevail choose the latter.

    This piece was first published on

    The psychology of survival: the need for resilience 960 The psychology of survival: the need for resilience Fri, 09 Apr 2021 08:45:00 +0000 Guest Contributor Ken Hughes Time to Survive

    Instinct took over. I grabbed my passport and phone, threw open my bedroom door and located the nearest emergency stairwell exit. I took those 12 floors (24 flights of stairs) at speed, pivoting using the handrail, 3 steps per floor. Step, stair return, step. As I descended the stairs, the plaster ceiling was collapsing, raining dust and fragments down as the 7.1 Richter scale earthquake rippled through the city. At one point, an entire floor-to-ceiling window imploded just as I was passing it. I didn’t stop to look. Until I was out of that building in clear open space, I was in survival mode.

    In previous blogs, making sense of where we are socially and psychologically, I have discussed the Psychology of Captivity and the Psychology of Recovery. Today, to understand where consumers and business are and need to be, we are going to look at the Psychology of Survival, how we are going to make it out of this stronger and wiser.

    He Who Dares, Wins

    We tend to focus and be fascinated by survival stories, of those, who despite the odds, make it through the unthinkable. Climber Joe Simpson (‘Touching the Void’ – Vintage Publishing) falling to his certain death, already with a badly broken leg, into a crevasse. Over the coming days, starving and frostbitten, clawing his way out alone and down the slopes, across snow and rock to base camp. Or the Uruguayan rugby team, eating the flesh of their dead friends to survive the plane crash in the Andean mountains (‘Alive’ – J.B. Lippincott Company). Or José Alvarenga, the Salvadoran fisherman who spent 14-months adrift in the Pacific Ocean in a tiny fishing boat (‘438 Days’ – Pan Macmillan), surviving on rainwater and catching sea gulls and turtles with his bare hands. These stories fascinate us, and much research has been done on the qualities of those who survive such ordeals, an event that should have ended their lives.

    10 key attributes to build into our own business survival

    Some of the arising attributes from these survival studies are obvious, and ones that we would do well to build into our own business survival as this pandemic stretches beyond the one-year mark. Here are ten aspects you should be thinking about and also instilling in your teams and business culture:


    The ability to adjust quickly when presented with a new situation, altering your attitude and behaviours to the new reality.

    Adaptability is about turning our back on the behaviours of the past and rapidly embracing the new. It’s what sets survivors. apart from those that cannot accept the new reality. Design business process with a hunger for adaptability. The AirBnB rapid pivot to Online Experiences is a good example.


    The ability for a material to hold form regardless of the stresses placed on it.

    This is not just about elasticity (similar to adaptability above) but also perseverance, the drive to keep going. Invest in your team regularly. Think Aron Ralston’s story (127 Hours – Atria books) of his time in the Utah desert pinned under a boulder, finally sawing his own arm off to escape. You don’t get through those 5 days and still have the mental and physical strength to amputate your own arm with a pocket knife without resilience.

    3.Hope (Faith)

    Hope is the combination of optimism and realism – a desire to survive despite the odds, an intrinsic belief.

    Those who are religious often will place their faith in a higher power (God) and this belief also drives them forward. Instil hope in business strategy and approach. Joe Simpson had to hope that his climbing partner was still at base camp, despite Simon assuming Joe had fallen to his death into that crevasse. It was this hope that kept him moving.


    The reason to live, your reason to succeed. Without a purpose, people lose hope and direction.

    Make sure you are clear on your business purpose to get through the crisis. Frankl (‘Mans Search for Meaning’ – Beacon Press) clearly states that having a purpose in the Holocaust camps was key to his survival. Make sure you and your team know their purpose through these times.

    5. Love

    A variation of the above (purpose), but one that focuses the mind – people will often do anything for those they love.

    Foster something like the unbreakable bonds that exist with family and friends within your business. The aforementioned José, afloat in the pacific, kept his young teenage daughter in mind for those 14-months, his love and desire to see her again keeping him going.


    Often helping others in a crisis not only helps the recipient but also rewards the giver with further purpose.

    Soldiers often fought to protect the colleague in the trenches next to them, not the country or greater good. Encourage an empathetic approach to customers and colleagues which will benefit all.

    7. Intelligence

    The ability to acquire and use knowledge to solve problems, to diagnose, analyse, and act appropriately.

    Survival is about making decisions that are based on new available data and having the knowledge in terms of how to best apply that data in action. Bill Garleb, an ex-Japanese PoW tells a story of boarding a train box car to camp. The prisoners elbowed and shoved forward, anxious to get a space to lie down in the car. Garleb noticed there was little ventilation in the box car and allowed himself to be shoved aside, becoming the last man to board, taking a space by the door. 26 prisoners suffocated on that journey, but Galeb acted appropriately to the data available to him and survived.


    This is about being clever, inventive and resourceful.

    It is the combination of adaptability and intelligence, the inventive application of the same information but with an eye to consequence or outcome. The choice to eat their dead colleagues and friends to stay alive in the Andes was horrendous, but was also resourceful and necessary to survive. You join the dots in whatever form that takes to survive.


    The ability to move forward, effortlessly, steadily, relentlessly and with ease.

    To survive you need to keep moving. This is true of every climber passing through Everest’s Death Zone. Survival is about one step in front of the other, continuously. Sit down for a rest, and the lack of oxygen at that height results in a brain fog where you are unlikely to ever get moving again. Bodies remain strewn throughout the death zone to this day, evidence of what happens when you lose flow in moments of peril.


    The ability to simply act, the power of intuition. It is what the gut tells the person to do, what feels right.

    This is a bit more of an X-Factor quality, but often your first instinct can be what matters in survival. I didn’t have to wait to be told to evacuate that hotel during that Mexican earthquake. I was out on the street in less than a minute, survival instinct driving my decisions.

    A lot of these qualities are often summarised into the ‘will-to-live’ argument. That the difference between those that survive and those that don’t is a powerful ‘will-to-live’.

    I Think I’ll Do Nothing

    However, high-lighting the qualities of the survivor is not actually the point of this article. Research into survival psychology shows that in extreme situations, only 15% of people show such survival qualities listed above. They are the exception. An astounding 75% do nothing at all (the remaining 10% act irrationally putting everyone else in danger)

    So, the question really becomes, not why and how we survive, but why so many of us do nothing to help ourselves in dangerous situations. The parallel that is important here, is that many businesses are being run in this fashion at present, not fully embracing the danger the pandemic truly brings to their business models. They are awaiting the return to a ‘normal’ that no longer exists. By doing nothing, they are slipping away, unbeknown to themselves. They have taken a short rest in Everest’s Death Zone, content they’ll get going any moment now. They will not.

    Our history is full of examples of inactivity, brought about by an impairment of cognitive function when under threat. In 1985, a British Airtours Boeing-737 flight aborted take-off at Manchester airport after a loud explosion. The plane was already off the runway and stopped as the arising engine fire started to sweep through the plane. While emergency evacuation systems were reviewed post this tragedy, the investigation found that some passengers remained immobile in their seats until overtaken by the smoke and toxic fumes, arising in 55 deaths.

    Or in 1994 as the cruise ferry MS Estonia left Tallin with nearly 1000 on board, heading for Stockholm. When the bow door broke open 6 hours into the journey (through a force-9 gale) the boat took on water, sinking completely within one hour. Even with the storm conditions and rapid nature of the sinking, investigators were shocked at the scale of loss of life. 852 people perished and later reports from the investigation showed that “… a number of people… seem to have been incapable of rational thought or behaviour because of their fear. Others appeared petrified and could not be forced to move. Some panicking, apathetic and shocked people were beyond reach and did not react when other passengers tried to guide them, not even when they used force or shouted at them”

    Scale model of MS Estonia

    More recently, while none of those lost in the 9/11 Twin Tower attacks were to know the probability of building collapse, there was significant hesitation in the initial evacuation post impact of the planes. A study by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology found that survivors who did make it out, waited, on average, six minutes before moving to a stairwell, some waiting around for up to half-an-hour carrying on as normal, tidying desks, sending emails or generally hanging around to see what would happen or waiting for others to move first, resulting in crowd passivity.

    Fight, Flight or FREEZE

    What we are looking at here is known as Cognitive Paralysis, the inability to process and think when fear strikes. It is the oft forgotten fear response after Fight and Flight – it is the Freeze, useful in nature if you are a rodent hiding from a predator who uses movement to locate its prey, but deadly if you are a business in a rapidly changing environment. Standing still is a sure way to die.

    Aside from the inability to act, there is also another factor that is clear in the research, that of simply ‘giving up’. This is different to the cognitive impairment above, this is a mental decision to give-in, and it is a very real psychological and physiological state.

    In 1994 a light aircraft crashed in the Sierra Nevada. Of the three people on board one passenger was trapped in the wreckage, another had no more than superficial bruising, whilst the pilot had apparent injuries to his arm, ankle and ribs. To obtain help the pilot walked for 11 days through the snow-covered mountains before reaching a road and flagging down a passing car. The alerted rescue services located the crash site. Both the pilot’s companions were dead.


    The usual media attention was given to the feat of endurance of the injured pilot in travelling for 11 days over snow-covered mountains to seek help. His two dead companions warranted no more than a passing sentence in the press. Yet, one of these men had no more than superficial bruising following the crash. So why did he die? Material was there for shelter; fire could be made, water was available and he would not have starved in 11 days. This is the crux of survival psychology.

    One view holds that people die because they become depressed and simply give up. In World War II the Japanese called it bura-bura or ‘do-nothing-sickness’, whilst the Americans called it ‘give-up-itis’ from their PoW experiences in Korean and Vietnamese camps. A mental tipping point is reached: living is hard, dying is easy. It’s the Everest Death Zone again, I’ll just have a little rest here. Having a sleep and dying suddenly seems quite attractive.

    The professional yachtsman Nick Moloney described in an interview the time when he was swept overboard and became entangled in his harness: ‘I was so tired and in so much pain, there wasn’t even an adrenaline surge. I died that day. I completely gave up the struggle. Mentally I’d lost the will-to-live, and that’s a terrible place to be’.

    The concern we should all have is about dealing with pandemic business fatigue. 12-months is a long time to be trading in a challenging environment, and I can see business and brand owners (and employees) nearing the ‘giving up’ stage, just happy to wait it out now, wait for the return to normality. However, failing to keep-in-flow may result in your business failing to survive this.

    Focus on Your Goals

    Survival requires goal-directed behaviour. However, witness testimonies in survival research seems to suggest that such goal-directed behaviour is the first function to fail when under threat. The prevailing psychological explanation for these kind of behaviours – passivity, mental paralysis, giving-up or simply carrying on as normal in the face of a crisis – is that they are caused by a failure to adapt to a sudden change in the environment. But in a new, unfamiliar environment, particularly a stressful one such as a sinking ship or a global pandemic, establishing survival goals requires a lot more conscious effort, effort which seems to have waned over the months.

    So, instil the qualities of the survivor in yourself and your teams, and be clear on goals and motivation to ensure ‘give-up-itis’ does not set in. Continue to adapt, do not take a rest and wait. It is a long journey, it’s been 12+ months for most of us, but we need to remain strong, resilient and keeping moving forward. Keep challenging business models, keep engaging with customers. Rescue is one-part luck, but mostly hard-work and resilience.

    Part II Teaser:

    Survival psychology also looks at stressful events across the 5 stages – pre-impact (the impending doom), impact (the event), recovery (actions taken post-event), rescue (the finality) and post-trauma. For the pandemic, the rescue may be in the form of vaccination but the post-trauma fall-out will be the one to watch, for society, consumers and business, which is something we will cover in Past II of this article – The Psychology of Post-Survival.

    Thanks to John Leach for his amazing article on ‘Surviving Psychology: The Won’t to Live’ from which I have drawn inspiration and content above.

    Ken Hughes is one of the top virtual speakers on the corporate circuit on the psychology of motivation, captivity, recovery and survival. He speaks on the challenges facing consumers, business and society and this blog contains elements of content covered in his new keynote ‘The Big Take Back’

    To book Ken for your next virtual event, click here.

    Photo credits: Thanh Tran, Li Yang, Kyle Glenn, Daniel Stuben, NKRbeta, Joshua Earle, Jackson Simmer.

    Ken Hughes was one of the top speakers on our Mission CX program. This piece is a repost from his personal website

    Innovation Freeze: Why Major Companies Are Losing Their Markets and Talent 960 Innovation Freeze: Why Major Companies Are Losing Their Markets and Talent Tue, 06 Apr 2021 08:40:00 +0000 ​Guest Contributor Barry O’Reilly The truth is the playing field is not level, and those companies who were able to adapt didn’t wait—they accelerated in the face of uncertainty. Those who froze, stopped, or paused—hoping to ride out the pandemic until they could get back to business as usual—are in for an unpleasant reckoning… and not just from Amazon’s $400B surge or Microsoft’s $270B increase (in just the first half of 2020!).

    The gains made by these and other tech giants are no surprise. But other players that stalled companies need to be worrying about aren’t even on their radar—and it will come as a shock when they discover who is eating up their market share.

    But before I explain that, how do we know innovation is down? Anecdotally, I can see it in the conversations between executives in my coaching communities and masterminds. Some are finding a creative path forward, but most are stuck, having slashed all funding for growth and innovation since last March.

    On the quantifiable macro level, we can see that patent registrations have dropped precipitously, to levels not seen since the early 2000’s. Patents are leading indicators that investments in research and development will bare fruit, creating new products and future growth. The rate of patents issued is not a perfect metric for innovation, but it’s a well-known and useful proxy that economists observe.

    When I show this chart to executives, they’re shocked to see how big of a drop there really was in 2020. But what should be even more alarming is what we can expect in the next few columns.

    Typically after recessions—such as in 2000, 2007, and 2011—it takes two or three years for the rate of patents to recover. With such a significant cutback now, economists and executives are worried about the future like never before.

    Three Archetypes of Innovation

    So while legacy companies are lagging, who’s leading and innovating their way out of the crisis and into strong growth? From my perspective, businesses are falling into three basic categories in regards to innovation: Leaders, Stallers, and Reinventors.


    At the top, unsurprisingly, technology companies make up six of the ten businesses that have seen the most growth during the pandemic. These Leaders are remote-ready and well-structured for rapid, data-driven innovation in a fully digital economy. A remote-enabled work environment is table stakes for SalesForce, Zoom, Paypal, Slack, and their ilk (The Home Depot is a notable outlier in the top 25). The success of these companies has only accelerated.


    Next we have a wide range of enterprise-level companies who have struggled for years with ineffective digital transformations: transportation, financial services, traditional retailers, and many others. Most of these businesses pulled funding for growth and innovation the moment the unanticipated hit.

    They underestimated the time it would take for the pandemic to run its course and assumed consumer behaviors would quickly return to past patterns. They’ve also struggled simply to keep their operations afloat, let alone foster innovation in this remote-work reality everyone around the globe is becoming conditioned to—and will likely continue to expect (or demand).

    These companies are losing ground to the tech-enabled giants as well as rapidly scaling businesses like cyber-security firm CrowdStrike, which is pivoting its business model (providing cyberattack response services to enterprises) to grab more adjacent market share by offering increased remote-machine security for work-at-home situations.


    But the real surprise is that the Stallers are also beginning to face competition from the third category of companies: those who previously had minimal involvement with the digital economy but are starting to reinvent themselves to become something even better.

    These late-comers are leapfrogging legacy technology and empowering their teams for innovation—pivoting and even expanding their value propositions!

    For example, a European auto parts company previously had a large backlog of service contracts. Its small team of highly specialized technicians who would travel wherever needed to personally repair complex machinery. Since COVID, this company started utilizing virtual reality to allow its senior techs to guide less-skilled on-site mechanics, enabling them to scale dramatically and offer this kind of training as a service.

    So here’s a company that used to just sell auto parts but has now embraced new technological capabilities to develop an entirely new class of revenue stream. This is happening in every sector, and these forward-thinking companies are starting to add to the disruption of their industries.

    Why is Innovation Down in Large Organizations?

    Time is short for Staller companies that have been frozen in place since the first lockdowns. To shift back into “drive,” you have to recognize a few patterns that are likely keeping you stuck.

    1. Funding Slashed

    If you cut funding for growth initiatives in order to wait and see what happens, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. You have literally stopped yourself from being able to move forward and find your way through the new economic landscape. You cannot wait any longer—you need to act and learn your way through the uncertainty to determine what your future will look like in the world ahead.

    2. Lacking tools for remote collaboration

    If you were previously reliant on in-person communication at the office, you’ve got to invest in the best tools to help people work together anytime from anywhere. I’ve encountered teams where simply getting their home laptops to connect to the company system or have four people on a video call were a major undertaking.

    Every minute spent trying to figure how to collaborate is a minute people aren’t working on the problems to move your business forward. Those minutes quickly add up to months of effort and mountains of lost money.

    And remember, your talent compares their social collaboration tools to their business collaboration ones. The wider the gap, the greater the frustrations, and the sooner they look elsewhere to work.

    3. Lacking the capability and processes for remote collaboration

    Managers are too used to monitoring people’s activity in-person, measuring success as tasks completed and managing outputs rather than outcomes.

    The command-and-control model has been outdated for decades, and in a remote environment it’s impossible to replicate. So instead, managers constantly ask team members for updates. This is wasted effort—squashing creativity, damaging morale, and stopping your company from profiting from remote productivity.

    7 Ways Stalled Companies Can Get Back on the Road

    To overcome these patterns, you need to start now. Don’t wait for COVID to end, because every day that goes by, you’re losing ground to those who are forging ahead.

    1. Start designing and testing how people can work differently.

    This will be a differentiator. Even if your employees come back to the office at some point, many workers are in favor of 3-2-2: work for three days in the office, two days remote, and two days off.

    You’ll lose talent without work-location flexibility. Companies like are helping companies hire people from anywhere and deal with the legal and logistics of remote-work employees.

    2. Start over-communicating across your business what is happening, how you’re responding, and the direction you want people to go.

    When the pandemic struck there was no better example of crisp, scalable communication than Arne Sorenson, President and CEO of Marriott International.

    3. Your ability to move information and keep people aligned and engaged has never mattered more.

    For example, the founders of Slack and Atlassian frequently send out short video updates, to support longer form updates and all-hands. Small, frequent informational updates help people choose when it matters most to them to dig deeper.

    4. Invest in the best collaboration tools for your teams’ use.

    The more visibility you can provide them about what others are doing and why, the better. Great tools let people focus on their work rather than continuous updates to managers about the tasks they could, should, and will be doing. Get people working, not spending time figuring out how they can collaborate together.

    5. Design collaboration into your operations.

    Get intentional about how you’re organizing collaboration. Enable and encourage cross-functional conversations and include “wildcard” people in meetings to get different perspectives, challenge assumptions, and raise awareness about new solutions. You’ve got to provide opportunities for people to connect dots and experience synchronicity in a remote environment.

    6. When onboarding new hires, work hard to build their network in the company.

    Give them a buddy. Help create the connections they need to be successful by pairing them with people who’ve been in the company for a longer time and have strong connections to others.

    7. Make as much information as you can as transparent as possible.

    Innovation happens when people join disparate dots. Make sure leadership is clarifying and communicating desired outcomes and individuals are sharing what actions they’re attempting to achieve them.

    I know that this has been a difficult time for many company leaders, and making the kinds of changes necessary to compete in this new world can seem daunting. It requires a healthy dose of unlearning, but it is possible.

    For inspiration, check out my podcast episodes in which I explored these topics with leaders from American Airlines and Wells Fargo.

    American has achieved an array of measurable successes in the midst of the pandemic, such as rolling out hundreds of contactless kiosks in weeks and developing the capability to update them in real time.

    Wells Fargo was able to pull together a small, cross-functional team to swiftly handle business loans for the Paycheck Protection Program which was dropped in banks’ laps by the US government last spring.

    You’ll be inspired hearing how these companies have managed to shift out of ineffective legacy processes and built capabilities for rapid innovation.

    You Can Do This

    Hitting pause on innovation was never going to be a good bet, and if that’s your situation, it’s high time to get back in the game. Your competitors aren’t waiting.

    Remember, think BIG, but start small so you can learn fast. If you need help to get the ball rolling, reach out and let’s chat.

    Here’s to getting unstuck,

    This piece was first published on Barry O’Reilly’s personal website

    PODCAST - Radar - by nexxworks March 2021 960 PODCAST - Radar - by nexxworks March 2021 Thu, 01 Apr 2021 11:27:00 +0000 These were the headlines of our conversation, though we did talk about many other things as well:

    Enjoy the episode and please be so kind as to share it or rate us and follow our channel, if you liked what you heard!

    Prefer to listen to Apple Podcasts? You can check us there too.

    If we forgot anything, got something wrong or you would just like to provide some feedback, contact us at

    A Peter Hinssen e-book: 10 vibes for the next decade 960 A Peter Hinssen e-book: 10 vibes for the next decade Mon, 29 Mar 2021 07:22:00 +0000 Peter Hinssen In the very early stages of this exciting 21st century, only four things have happened that will go down in the history books:

    1. Digital became normal and ate the world,
    2. China woke up again after a very long nap,
    3. the financial system almost collapsed back in 2008,
    4. and just very recently a virus pressed the global pause button.

    And so, at the start of a brand new decade, innovation author, keynote speaker and #nexxworks Partner Peter Hinssen looks ahead and picks up some of the most essential trends - or 'vibes' as he calls them - to help you make sense of coming years:

    1. Forget about normal, we've entered the Never Normal
    2. Mind the gap between what's possible and what's real
    3. Respect the limits of human pyschology and capacity 
    4. Reposition humans at the centre of the picture
    5. Curious about Peter's other 6 vibes for the next decade? Click on the download link below! 👇👇👇
    Do we need new rules for managing large scale societal structures? 960 Do we need new rules for managing large scale societal structures? Wed, 24 Mar 2021 10:56:00 +0000 Laurence Van Elegem
  • Globalization and urbanization have exponentially enlarged the scale of human structures, while humans have only been ‘programmed’ to function at the scale of 150 people.
  • The problem is that we have designed rules for these structures at the level of the individual, failing to protect the fabric of society and its context (nature).
  • An extra challenge is that structures that favour society over the individual tend to be highly undemocratic in nature.
  • Could we learn lessons from natural systems like a flock of birds where highly complex behaviour is the result of a few simple rules of engagement?

  • 150. According to anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar that’s the maximum number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships. That number was actually inspired by Bill Gore, Founder of W.L. Gore (developer of waterproof, breathable Gore-Tex fabrics). He had figured out that once a factory contained more than 150 people they were less likely to work together as a team. Dunbar was intrigued by his assumption, started researching it and did find similar results in other communities such as Native American tribes, military units and Amish communities. And so Dunbar’s number saw the light (which is just as much Gore’s number, really).

    Image from

    Dunbar's number

    150. That’s a lot, right? Especially in these pandemic times where we’re not allowed to meet more than 10 people at a time (in Belgium at least), and then only outside. But it’s also a very small amount compared to the 7.8 billion humans that roam the earth, the 2.2 million employees of Walmart or even my still pretty modest 4,036 LinkedIn followers.

    This disconnect probably is one of the biggest reasons why we’re experiencing the collapse of so many of our human systems, from democracy to our social networks. Human structures work great at the scale of 150 but beyond that often lies failure. Oh yes, we have been able to create enormous companies, ecosystems, technological system and continents that seem to work at first sight. But it’s safe to say that a lot of them are deeply flawed in their impact on society and environment. And the management systems we use to govern them are as well.

    Many other species thrive at large scale, though. Soak in this clip for a while and you’ll understand what I mean:

    Complex adaptive systems

    This flight of starlings is a fantastic example of a complex adaptive system. The magical part is not just the mesmerizing movement. It’s the fact that these ultracomplex patterns of behavior emerge from three basic and very simple rules:

    • separation: nearby birds move further apart
    • alignment: birds align their direction and speed,
    • cohesion: and more distant birds move closer.

    We have computer scientist Craig Reynolds to thank for these, who uncovered them back in 1987 by means of a computer simulation he called ‘Boid’.

    When you look at this intriguing collaborative “Flock Logic” project from Princeton’s Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department and Princeton’s Lewis Center for the Arts, you’ll immediately spot the lack of elegance and efficiency:

    Of course, humans can simulate these kinds of flock movements, but only when they are highly trained. And even then, their movements are based on calculated synchronicity rather than on spontaneous waves. It’s a bit like the difference between rule based artificial intelligence and machine learning where the system learns to imitate by itself. When humans imitate flocks they clearly work by rule based systems: the result may look impressive but it’s also limited in many ways.

    I’m not going to analyze the differences, like the fact that humans can only move on one plane and birds can do so in 3 dimensions. Because the comparison is really not the point here.

    What I do want to talk about, is that the simple rules described made me think of our current COVID-19 situation. Had we been well versed in the flocking logic as described above, we might have been able to function perfectly at scale in the pandemic.

    A flock of supermarket buyers

    Imagine people walking in a supermarket and performing the same beautiful ballet of separation and cohesion - each always at least 1.5 meter apart - that we saw in the first example of the starlings. Close your eyes (not now, obviously, read the paragraph first) and really try to see how that would work and how that could free us from certain risks and fears. And then think of the actual stress that we experience today when we are trying to reach for something on the top shelve in a supermarket with a guy with an improperly applied face mask (ah, the nose people) grabbing for something that’s just 20 cm away from us.

    The supermarket flocking is just a simplistic fantasy, of course, nothing to do with reality. At least not when it comes to bodily movement. But what if we applied these simple rules to human relations? To how we communicate and behave towards others?

    Rules for the whole, not the part

    Most human rules - at least on a societal level, which is one of the most complex forms of human systems - focus on the individual. Just to offer a few lines from The Universal Declaration of Human Rights as an example:

    • Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
    • No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
    • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

    While these lines seem to reflect on large groups – “everyone” – at first sight, the result is also that only one person, an individual can rely upon these rules if he, she or they feels that their rights have been infringed. And when you manage at scale, (far) beyond the number of 150, only focussing on individuals rights may be a flawed approach.

    So, does that mean that I believe that we should not protect the individual? Does that mean that I’m a “damned communist”, who believes that individuals are subordinate to the system they are functioning in? No. (And certainly not if that system is a commercial one.) But I also believe that we need some kind of different rule book for society. A rule book for the whole of society and its context, the planet, not just for the individuals of a nation. We need ‘rights’ and rulebooks for both.

    Society and nature need just as much protection as you and me. This does already happen in crises, of course, when individuals put aside their needs for that of society as a whole. Like in a pandemic, when “human health” or “the economy” have been put before the individual. But that’s only when we feel we have no choice. It is not a systemic approach.


    True, some societies are more centred upon the system than on the individual. China, for instance, has a culture which fixates more upon relationships between people than on the individual nodes. This should not come as a surprise, as China is the largest country in the world by population and it has understood that you cannot manage scale properly by focussing on every part of the whole. It’s mathematically unsound and highly disfunctional.

    The drawback of organizations that manage for the whole (rather than for the individual) and for scale is that they tend to be undemocratic in nature. And though democracy is flawed, it’s still the friendliest system of rule that we have.

    But what if we zoomed out even further? True, societies like China do concentrate on social capital. But it’s also a very specific form of “us versus them” relationship.

    Bonding and bridging social capital

    Let me explain by making a detour to the views of political scientist Robert Putnam about social capital which is what he calls the “connections among individuals – social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them.” According to Putnam, there are two forms of social capital:

    • Bonding social capital: the value assigned to social networks between homogeneous groups of people. Between friends, neighbours, family, members of the same religion, Star Wars fans etc.
    • Bridging social capital: the value assigned to social networks between socially heterogeneous groups.

    Societies that not only focus on bonding social capital (the most common form) but pay great attention to bridging social capital are known to fare better and be more democratic. Ancient Rome (obviously before the fall), is a great example of that.

    China however, even if it does attach more importance to the system and its connections than to the individual, is also more oriented towards ‘bonding social capital’. You only have to think of how its government treats the predominantly Muslim ethnic minority of the Uyghurs in the “transformation-through-education” camps in Xinjiang or the fact that it bans external platforms like Facebook and Twitter to know that that is at least partly true.

    The problem is design

    The biggest problem of our current societies is that they function at scale - globally - but are designed for the individual, or at least for in-groups and ‘bonding social capital’ (like in China’s case).

    And this design is a lot more crucial than people give it credit for. The backlash from technological systems like Facebook and Google may have been unintended, but it also flows directly from how they have been specifically designed to trigger radical emotions and offer more of what we have shown to like. Just like that, if you design your laws, courts and governments to protect the individual, then society’s (and nature’s) best interest will not be met. And your systems will clearly fail at scale.

    I’ll just leave you with a quote from Mule Design co-founder Mike Monteiro here, who may not always be very nuanced in his beliefs (though he is right about many things) but really nails the heart of our problems in this passage:

    “The combustion engine which is destroying our planet’s atmosphere and rapidly making it inhospitable is working exactly as we designed it. Guns, which lead to so much death, work exactly as they’re designed to work. And every time we “improve” their design, they get better at killing. Facebook’s privacy settings, which have outed gay teens to their conservative parents, are working exactly as designed. Their “real names” initiative, which makes it easier for stalkers to re-find their victims, is working exactly as designed. Twitter’s toxicity and lack of civil discourse is working exactly as it’s designed to work.”
    “The world is working exactly as designed. And it’s not working very well. Which means we need to do a better job of designing it.”

    Becoming a superorganism with the hive switch

    If you think that all of this talk about ‘flocking’ is highly theoretical and far removed from reality, I’d like to call attention to the fact that humans are programmed to “shut down the self and create a temporary superorganism”, according to veteran and historian William McNeil. He called this tendency “muscular bonding” which describes how individuals engaged in synchronous movement often experience feelings of euphoria and connection to the group.

    If you’ve ever been at a techno party, dancing and jumping frantically together with hundred or thousands of people to the same beat until you begin to feel part of something bigger than yourself (oh, how I miss those), you’ve experienced this muscular bonding. Other examples are soldiers marching around a drill field in close formation or the awe you feel at the vastness of nature while walking in a forest. Or the perhaps even the performers shown above that imitate a flock with their arms.

    This muscular bonding, or interpersonal entrainment, is said to have evolved as some kind of a group-level adaptation that helped early human groups outcompete other groups. Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt calls this ‘the hive switch’ and he believes that “human beings are conditional hive creatures”. The operative word being conditional: the hive switch is an ability to "lose ourselves (temporarily and ecstatically)" to come together in an "all for one, one for all" mentality. No need to explain that the hive switch has a dark side too, if we think about the storming of the United States Capitol in January.

    But this muscular bonding, hive switch or interpersonal entrainment is temporary, not structural. And it seems to be biased towards bonding social capital. And it’s not really useful when applied to the complexity of our global and national systems. But the good news is that the “biological software” towards ‘We before Me’ thinking is there, though it’s mostly dormant. We ‘just’ need to integrate it in the design of our societies, in a structural manner and in a way that it does not turn dark. And start thinking about rules that protect the whole (society and the planet) as well as its parts (the individuals).

    The rules of the flock

    I have absolutely no idea how this would work concretely, but maybe the ultra-simple rules of flocking as described above, could inspire us to design rules for the whole and at scale. I’ll leave them here, replacing the words ‘birds’ with ‘humans’:

    • rules of separation: nearby humans move further apart when they are in danger of colliding,
    • rules of alignment and synchronicity: humans align their direction and speed,
    • rules of cohesion: and more distant humans move closer.

    This piece is a repost from Laurence Van Elegem’s bi-monthly personal newsletter ‘The Questions’.

    Networking Needs a Rebranding 960 Networking Needs a Rebranding Mon, 22 Mar 2021 16:11:00 +0000 Guest contributor Laetitia Vitaud Networking needs a rebranding”, says Kelly. We’ve long seen it as this (mostly male) activity that consists in “schmoozing at boring parties or scrolling through LinkedIn” and wondering how you can benefit from others.

    But that’s not what networking is really about! The pandemic and the social distancing that comes with it have proved one thing: more than ever we need strong relationships to survive and thrive. Our careers but also our mental and physical health depend on the strength and authenticity of the relationships we cultivate. Perhaps we’ve let loneliness become the epidemic of this century because we’ve not learned how to genuinely connect with others in this hyper-connected world.

    Dissatisfied with the business-card-minded definition of networking, Kelly looked to the definition of ‘net’ for more inspiration—“an openwork fabric made of threads or cords that are woven or knotted together at regular intervals”—because, she writes,

    For me networking is an ongoing process of establishing and strengthening relationships. It is not confined to a single activity such as email introductions or cocktail receptions in the lobby of a corporation's headquarters.

    Kelly wrote this book a couple of years ago. But her messages sound more relevant now than ever before. We need a better ‘net’. As the line between life and work gets blurrier and blurrier, it seems more obvious that a new approach to networking will help us in both.

    The first thing we could do is stop presenting “digital” networking as “inferior” or less “real”. Online and offline connections complement one another. The former are no less real than the latter. In fact the two are deeply intertwined. There are so many things we can do to get better at cultivating meaningful relationships, both online and offline.

    I hope you enjoy listening to this conversation as much as I enjoyed recording it:

    This piece and accompanying podcast are reposts from Laëtitia Vitaud’s newsletter Building Bridges.

    The dos and don'ts of creating an ecosystem - an e-book by Rik Vera 960 The dos and don'ts of creating an ecosystem - an e-book by Rik Vera Wed, 17 Mar 2021 10:37:00 +0000 Rik Vera Find out in his hands-on e-book what the opportunities, challenges and functions of the ecosystems model are. Click on the download link below. 👇👇👇  

    4 Customer Experience Tactics you can use on Clubhouse 960 4 Customer Experience Tactics you can use on Clubhouse Mon, 15 Mar 2021 09:11:00 +0000 Steven Van Belleghem What is Clubhouse?

    I loved the The Guardian’s description of ClubHouse: “Part talkback radio, part conference call, part housepartyClubhouse is an audio-chat-based social networking app”. Users can listen in to conversations, interviews and discussions between interesting people on various topics – it is just like tuning in to a podcast but live and with an added layer of exclusivity. Today Clubhouse only works on IOS, so you need an iPhone to experience this new cool place. If you are still looking to get an invite, send me a private message and I’ll be happy to get you on the platform.

    Should companies try Clubhouse?

    Many business leaders wonder if they should experiment with Clubhouse. I’ve been on the platform for a few weeks now and my experience is quite positive. There are many interesting people on the platform, the threshold to join in a conversation is very low and the content is quite good. And of course, as with any new social network: the attention span of its users is high. So this is a good time to experiment with it. The one big downside is the fact that it’s a time-consuming platform. It’s not like Instagram or Facebook that you can quickly check in between two meetings, you really need to sit down for this one. So if you have limited time (don’t we all), then it is matter of finding the conversation you really value.

    Four Customer Experience Tactics for Clubhouse

    In this blog I wanted to share some easy-to-implement tactics on how you can use Clubhouse for your customer experience strategy.

    1. Invite your customers on stage

    If you have a Clubhouse event planned, make sure to invite some of your customers onto the stage with you. It will improve the quality of the conversation and put your customer in the spotlight, which they will appreciate. You could invite them to bring in their expertise and while doing so, you are indirectly helping them promote their own company. Customers always appreciate such opportunities.

    2. Organize a Q&A about a hot topic in your industry

    Offer value for customers through your knowledge about a hot topic. What is the current hype in your industry, what area occupies people’s minds or which trends would you like to focus on? Once you have found the focus of the conversation, you plan a room. A good approach is to have a moderator and an expert panel. You can kick off the session with some guided questions from your moderator before you open up the floor to questions from the audience. Inform and invite customers in advance so they can add the session to their calendar like they would with a traditional event.

    3. Attend the Clubhouse events of your customers

    You can share content to bring value to your customers but Clubhouse is also a fantastic platform to learn more about your customers. Joining your customers in one of the rooms gives you the opportunity to learn more about them. It will bring new insights and learnings that may help you optimize your relationship. And on top, they will appreciate it to know that you care about their content.

    4. Organize a ‘premium’ Clubhouse event

    Now and then you could host a ‘premium’ event at clubhouse. See it as an important physical event that you would organize in non COVID times. For a premium event make sure you have a nice line-up. You could invite your CEO or a senior executive, you could invite an external guest to provide input and maybe bring a CEO of one of your customers on board. Prepare this session properly to ensure engaging conversation. You should also plan a little Q&A session for the audience. The level of interactivity and engagement of such an event is quite high. Sometimes you can even create an opportunity to meet with someone who would be unreachable under normal circumstances. Some of the busiest rooms had speakers like Elon Musk and Marc Zuckerberg. In other words, setting up premium events with high-level content is a rewarding tactic. Make sure you announce this to your clients in advance like you would with any other event.

    Keep a certain rhythm

    You can create ad hoc rooms on Clubhouse or create a daily/weekly/monthly show. Both can work, although I would advise that you settle into a steady rhythm to help you build an audience. This makes it easy for your customers to know when you are live so they can organize their schedule accordingly. It’s like with all social media, if you create content regularly the impact is much higher than if you just show up once.

    Want more inspiration from Steven about customer experience? Join the nexxworks club on Clubhouse here!

    These 4 Paradigm Shifts Will Define The Next Decade 960 These 4 Paradigm Shifts Will Define The Next Decade Thu, 11 Mar 2021 08:46:00 +0000 Guest contributor Greg Satell All too often, models take on the illusion of reality. We are trained, first at school and then on the job, to use models to make decisions. Most of the time the models are close enough to reality that we don’t really notice the discrepancy. Other times we notice that the model is off, but we dismiss it an unusual case or anomaly.

    Yet the real world is always changing. So models tend to get more wrong—and hence less useful— over time. Eventually, the once-useful models become misleading and we undergo a paradigm shift. Today, as we experience a period of enormous change, we need to unlearn old models and replace them with new ones. They too will be wrong, but hopefully useful.

    1. From Value Chains To Ecosystems

    The dominant view of strategy in the 20th century was based on Michael Porter’s ideas about competitive advantage. In essence, he argued that the key to long-term success was to dominate the value chain by maximizing bargaining power among suppliers, customers, new market entrants and substitute goods.

    Yet markets today are much faster, more interconnected and more complex than they were when Porter formulated his ideas about competitive advantage. In a fast moving information economy, firms increasingly depend on ecosystems to compete. That drastically changes the game.

    Ecosystems are nonlinear and complex. Power emanates from the center instead of at the top of a value chain. You move to the center by connecting out. In a networked-driven world you need to continually widen and deepen links to other stakeholders within the ecosystem. That’s how you gain access to resources like talent, technology and information.

    Consider the mobility revolution that is disrupting the auto industry. In an earlier age, the auto giants would have sought to use their market clout to dominate nascent players in an attempt to preserve their position. Now however, they are creating partnerships with tech companies, startups and others in order to innovate more effectively in the space.

    Even more impressive has been the global effort to fight the Covid crisis, in which unprecedented collaboration between governments, large pharmaceutical companies, innovative startups and academic scientists developed a life-saving vaccine in record time. Similar, albeit fledgling, efforts have been going on for years.

    2. From Maximizing Bargaining Power To Building Resilience And Trust

    Porter’s ideas dominated thinking in corporate strategy for decades, yet they had a fatal flaw that wasn’t always obvious. Thinking in terms of value chains is viable when technology is relatively static, but when the marketplace is rapidly evolving it can get you locked out of important ecosystems and greatly diminish your ability to compete.

    A report from Accenture Strategy analyzing over 7000 firms found that trust itself is increasingly becoming a competitive advantage. When evaluating competitive agility, it found trust “disproportionately impacts revenue and EBITDA.” The truth is that to compete effectively you need to build deep bonds of trust throughout a complex ecosystem of stakeholders.

    If you are always looking to maximize your bargaining power, you are likely to cut yourself off from important information and capabilities that you will need to effectively compete. That’s one reason that the Business Roundtable, an influential group of almost 200 CEOs of America’s largest companies, issued a statement that discarded the old notion that the purpose of a business is solely to create shareholder value in favor of a broader stakeholder approach.

    It is through forging bonds of trust that a business can build resiliency. If a company is seen as trustworthy, then it can draw on the goodwill of customers, employees, partners and communities to help it overcome a disruptive event. If, on the other hand, it is seen as greedy and predatory, everything becomes much harder. We need to learn how to rebuild trust.

    3. From Vertical Agility To Horizontal Agility

    For the past 50 years, innovation has largely been driven by our ability to cram more transistors onto a silicon wafer. That’s what’s allowed us to double the power of our technology every 18 months or so and led to the continuous flow of new products and services streaming out of innovative organizations.

    Perhaps not surprisingly, over the past few decades agility has become a defining competitive attribute. Because the fundamentals of digital technology have been so well understood, much of the value shifted to applications, rather than fundamental technologies and things like design and user experience. Yet that will change in the years ahead.

    Over the past few decades, agility has largely meant moving faster and faster down a predetermined path. Over the next few decades, however, agility will take on a new meaning: the ability to explore multiple domains at once and combine them into something that produces value. We’ll need to learn how to go slower to deliver much larger impacts.

    Over the next few decades we will struggle to adapt to a post-digital age and we will need to rethink old notions about agility. To win in this new era of innovation we will have to do far more than just move fast and break things.

    4. From Bits To Atoms

    In The Rise and Fall of American Growth, economist Robert Gordon argues that the rapid productivity growth the US experienced from 1920-1970 is largely a thing of the past. While there may be short spurts of growth, like there was in the late 90’s, we’re not likely to see a sustained period of progress anytime soon.

    Among the reasons he gives is that, while earlier innovations such as electricity and the internal combustion engine had broad implications, the impact of digital technology has been amazingly narrow. The evidence bears this out. We see, to paraphrase Robert Solow, digital technology just about everywhere except in the productivity statistics.

    Still, there are indications that the future will look very different than the past. Digital technology is beginning to power new areas in the physical world, such as synthetic biology and materials science, that are already having a profound impact on such high potential fields as medical research renewable energy and manufacturing.

    It is all too easy to get caught up in old paradigms. When progress is powered by chip performance and the increased capabilities of computer software, we tend to judge the future by those same standards. What we often miss is that paradigms shift and the challenges—and opportunities—of the future are likely to be vastly different.

    In an age of disruption, the only viable strategy is to adapt.

    This piece was first posted on Greg Satell’s personal blog Digital Tonto.

    PODCAST - Radar - by nexxworks February 2021 960 PODCAST - Radar - by nexxworks February 2021 Wed, 10 Mar 2021 17:53:00 +0000 Laurence Van Elegem In this very first episode of Radar - by nexxworks, we tackle the exciting subjects of mobility and Big Tech, EVs, Tesla buying 1.5 billion dollar in bitcoin, China opening the world's largest radio telescope up to international scientists, Bill Gates’ nuclear announcement, lab grown wood, burn-out, leadership, Apple’s new privacy measures, a Facebook smartwatch, anti-trust and Gamestop.


    Prefer to listen to Apple Podcasts? You can check us here too.


    Here’s the HBR article about burn-out Julie referred to.

    Here’s the article reporting how Facebook is building a new smartwatch.

    Read more about lab grown wood here and about China opening up its telescope here.

    Here’s Bill Gates new book ‘How to avoid climate disaster’ which Joren referred to:

    If we forgot anything or you would just like to provide some feedback, contact us at

    Human Capital Era Reality: The Skills Gap May Never Close 960 Human Capital Era Reality: The Skills Gap May Never Close Mon, 08 Mar 2021 14:41:00 +0000 Guest contributor Heather E. Mc Gowan Since the dawn of the first hand tools, humans have been filling the skills gap, that space between the people with the know how to use a tool to do a job and the demand for workers who have that smarts.  Though the expertise transferred from one skilled person to the next has changed drastically across the millennia, the methods by which skills are transferred from one to another have barely budged. Someone with expertise passed along that knowledge to someone who wanted to learn the skill. Over time, the trades created an elaborate framework of apprenticeship. The early church and then universities documented the known world and developed pedagogy and curriculum to pass that knowledge from generation to generation.

    The Evolution of Work HEATHER E MCGOWAN

    That process of documenting, codifying, teaching, testing, and mentoring has continued for centuries, even as the human knowledge base arguably has surpassed any one human’s ability to digest and learn it all. Still, it is a method that largely worked for knowledge of a particular type, what IBM dubbed “perishable skills”. Until now.

    Perishable skills are those that are useful over time but ultimately become obsolete. When the world marched at a slower pace, a worker’s command of perishable skills might well have held up over a lifetime. As the pace of change accelerated, however, perishable skills expired more quickly as employers demanded a different skillset to meet a more modern application. Workers had to top up their skills to remain employable, filling the so-called skills gaps with the new learning that employers required.

    For much of the last two centuries, workers (often supported by government programs, shifting university curricula, and employers themselves) chased that skill gap in an exhausting effort to keep up with ever-changing demands.  Now, as the half-life of a perishable skill has become razor thin. In its report titled “The Enterprise Guide to Closing the Skills Gap,” IBM Institute for Business Value presents research that suggests that “skills generally have a ‘half-life’ of about five years, with more technical skills at just two and a half years.”  As perishable skills are replaced by more efficient or effective technologies and processes, and preplaced more quickly, the skills gap becomes a skills abyss.

    If your feet are cemented in the old model of skills acquisition and transfer, the idea that we will never again be able to fill the skills gap quickly enough to meet employer demand may be terrifying. Keep in mind that not that long ago, companies outlived careers and people outlived the “best by” dates of perishable skills. A deep dive into a particular skill set and occupational identity, then, would last a lifetime. That is no longer the case. As Chris Shipley and I have long argued current and future workforces will cycle through many occupations across longer careers and lifetimes. Our tight grasp on a single occupational identity becomes the single highest hurdle to our ability to rapidly re-tool our skills for an even more rapidly changing world, and therein lies the terror for many workers today.

    If, however, you are an optimist like me and believe in the power of human potential, you might just see that we are entering the most exciting and liberating era of human work, an era that values all humans for their unique and creative contributions. The Era of Human Capital. Let’s take a closer look.

    Diving into the Skills Abyss

    For there even to be a skills gap, one human has to demonstrate a skill, the market must deem that skill valuable, and the demand for workers with that skill must exceed the supply. To keep pace with demand, a skill needs to be clearly and tightly defined so that knowledge of that skill could be transferred through classroom or on-the-job training. Ironically enough, the act of codifying a skill for worker training is the same process by which technologies are programmed to perform a skill, that is automation. Codified skills, it turns out, can in most cases be more cost-effectively “taught” to computers than to humans. Businesses focus on the bottom line; computers are cheaper than human. Therein is the basis for what we colloquially call “technological unemployment.” But let’s be clear: for a perishable skill to be automated, it must first be done by a human so that it can be understood, documented, codified, taught – all long before it can be handed over to technology.

    Not so long ago, either the market or the academy would anticipate the market need for an emerging new skill or knowledge domain (for example, cybersecurity, machine learning, or data analytics) and then take a nearly a decade to meet that need. It might take two to three years to codify, build and approve the curriculum to teach that skill. Then, students entered a two- to four-year learning program to master the skill, before graduating, finding their first job, and over several years developing mastery of that skill.   When change came slowly, as it did in the first industrial revolutions, that decade-long process worked well enough. Now, however, the change rate is simply too fast for this model to work.

    Skills Demand Curves Shorten as Time Compresses HEATHER E MCGOWAN

    Skilling and Industrial Revolutions

    In the first (steam, mechanical) and second (electronification, division of labor for mass production) industrial revolutions, workers were trained, often on the job, to master perishable skills that would, in most cases, last a lifetime. These industrial revolutions focused on competence, training people to answer known questions with the right answers and/or mimic skills to perform to a benchmark level. In the third industrial revolution (computerization), workers were set on course to achieve higher education degrees as work shifted from physical and routine labor to cognitive knowledge labor. We needed people with the capability to port their learned competence to adjacent challenges. These workers need the cognitive abilities to apply their understanding of known challenges to find both the right question and the right answer to challenges that lay just beyond their realms of familiarity and comfort.

    The Fourth Industrial Revolution and Jobs/Skills HEATHER E MCGOWAN

    Since 2015, according to the World Economic Forum, we have been transitioning to the fourth industrial revolution that is rapidly automating physical labor and routine cognitive labor. Now we find ourselves in an environment that asks us to explore the unknown well beyond our studied area of expertise, to find and frame novel challenges, and to create new knowledge and value. Both workers and companies must continuously expand their capacity—their capacity to upskill, reskill, learn, unlearn, and explore frontiers beyond the known and the familiar. To do this well, we must – at every level – make a deeper investment in humans knowing that the single greatest return on investment will come from investing in human potential.

    Competence, Capability, Capacity and Industrial Revolutions HEATHER E. MCGOWAN

    A report from The Economist Intelligence Unit titled  Closing the Skills Gap captured this transformation succinctly: “The growing mismatch between the needs of business and the offerings of the US education system stems from the fundamental restructuring of the national economy since the 1970s. This shift and the transition to an increasingly service-based economy have led to working environments that require more and more collaboration rather than the performance of repetitive tasks or the operation of machinery.” In other words, first, the shift in our economy from a manufacturing base to a knowledge base began fifty years ago. Second, work is no longer about routine or predictable tasks. Third, most work now depends on the successful collaboration of teams. Bottom line: We need humans that can learn and adapt together and in doing so find and frame new challenges in order to create new value.

    We need people who can explore the unknown, find and frame problems, formulate novel knowledge, and create new value. Here reskilling and upskilling will be a norm. Just like we add and remove applications on our phones, we will gain new skills and “delete” the old ones.

    Let Humans Be More Human

    Sadly, we are still stuck in the old model in which discrete phases of education are followed by work. It is a model that forces students through a sorting process to determine who is “university bound” and, where trade opportunities remain, who is “trade tracked”.  The knowledge economy has forced more students than ever before onto the higher-education track, where university-bound students are funneled further into advanced or specific courses where they are rewarded for a myopic focus on learning the right answers to ace standardized testing. Students are motivated externally and rewarded for acquiring perishable knowledge, and too often discouraged from exploration, trial, failure and experimentation. This was never a good idea; the so-called achievement limited exploration and tightly bound identities to a specific knowledge base, making adaptation later in one’s career more difficult. As Gallup has shown, this process reduces student engagement and agency. Folks are left feeling helpless and often trapped by identities forged in the past. In short, we developed a system of education that reduces student interest in learning, creates fear of failure, and prepares present students with an expectation of certainty when the world they enter will be increasingly uncertain. Collectively, this old model makes it much more difficult to foster a workforce able to learn and adapt continuously.

    Gallup Student Engagement GALLUP

    We Need New Models

    The merge of physical, biological, and cyber systems to create innovations such as self-driving vehicles, the internet of things, and advanced artificial cognition doesn’t require reskilling; it requires rethinking. The changes of the fourth industrial revolution are so profound that New Your Times columnist Thomas Friedman recently told me that he believes the industrial revolution framework is too limiting. Instead, he believes it is the third Promethean moment. In Greek mythology, the god Prometheus, steals fire and gives it to humanity from which civilization was born. Friedman believes the first Promethean moment occurred when Guttenberg invented the printing press, giving birth to the broader dissemination of knowledge. The second Promethean moment happened when the industrial revolution met capitalism, unleashing an incredible amount of human and industrial energy — which took the world a long time to learn how to get the most out of and cushion the worst. It eventually did so through welfare states and global institutions. He believes we are entering the third Promethean moment as three interconnected “climate changes” — rapid accelerations in globalization, technology and our natural systems — upending almost all our reference points. In this moment, Friedman believes, we need to rethink everything. While I agree with Friedman, I focus my exploration on work and learning, and thus, the fourth industrial revolution concept works for this particular discussion on careers, jobs, and skills.

    The World Economic Forum predicts as many as 50% of our work tasks may be automated by 2025 and, as a result, half of the global workforce will need to be reskilled in that time period. While the velocity of change continues to accelerate, human longevity continues to expand and, with that expansion, the career arc extends. As Lynda Gratton writes in The Corporate Implication of Longer Lives, life expectancy has lengthened by 2 to3 years every decade since the 1960s. Folks now in their 40s may need to work to their 70s while people in their 20s may need to work until their 80s. If a career spans 35 to 45 years for those who started to in their late teens or early twenties, those starting work today may very well be looking at 60-year or longer careers. Even as our lives and careers get longer, the useful life of the skills we learn today is getting shorter.

    Impact of Changing Lifespans and Shelf Life of Skills HEATHER E MCGOWAN

    In this circumstance, we need to focus new learning on knowledge that is durable, rather than skills that are perishable.

    Durable skills are foundational. They remain useful even as perishable skills become obsolete. Most importantly, durable skills retain their value over time. Consider the research from Burning Glass: graduates in technical fields received their greatest income premium in their first jobs and that premium declined over time if those technical skills were not buttressed with durable human skills. In other words, technology skills depreciate while human skills appreciate. Similar Studies were reported by the BBC in the UK where those pursuing graduate degrees in law saw a premium when studying liberal arts as undergraduate students as opposed to studying law. In short, those technical perishable skills depreciate, while those durable, human skills appreciate.

    Technology Skills Depreciate, Human Skills Appreciate MCGOWAN, SHIPLEY: THE ADAPTATION ADVANTAGE (WILEY, 2020)

    Which is fantastic news. It directs us to invest in all those capabilities – creative problem solving, collaboration, empathy and compassion, purpose and vision that are uniquely human. It frees us to invest in people, rather than skills.

    SEC Catches Up with the Human Capital Era

    That need – to invest in people – is gaining traction among the Wall Street elite, as it becomes increasingly clear that humans are actually the ones that create all new value. In August 2020, the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) mandated “human capital disclosures for all companies selling securities in the United States”.  While we’re still not entirely sure what this will mean in practice, PwC has taken a draft view of what this may mean in terms of disclosure. Most importantly, I believe this new and not-yet well-defined requirement shifts the spotlight from physical assets to human beings. In the 1930s, the SEC required disclosure of physical assets, notably property, plant, and equipment (PPE), because 100% of enterprise value was derived from physical assets. Over time, the locus of value creation began to shift. In 1975, 83% of value came from physical assets and 17% from human capital. In 2016, the last time it was calculated, 84% of value came from human capital and 16% from physical assets. The shift tracks with our transition from a manufacturing (1st and 2nd industrial revolutions) to a knowledge-based economy. Even if we begin to manufacture physical products again in the US through additive manufacturing (3d printing), I suspect much of the value will be in the human ingenuity that inspires and designs those products. In short, the value is in the human capital.

    SEC Catches Up With the Human Capital Era HEATHER E MCGOWAN

    In August 2019, the Business Roundtable declared an end to Milton Friedman’s Shareholder Value Era. The Business Roundtable acknowledged what Deloitte’s John Hagel discovered: this fifty-year period of prioritizing returning profits to shareholders actually resulted in lower rates of return on assets and, in fact, may have created economic stagnation as the stock market became increasingly disconnected from the actual economy.

    Where Will We Go From Here?

    As I have previously written, the pandemic accelerated our transformation to a digital economy, a transformation which is at its core a human transformation. Some economists, notably MIT’s Erik Byrnjolfsson, speculate that we may be adopting new technologies and processes now that set us up for a boom cycledriven by a productivity J- curve in the near future.

    Productivity J Curve HEATHER E MCGOWAN

    Whether we enjoy a new Roaring Twenties depends almost entirely on our prudent and broad investment in human capital. If we continue to advance technologically, if we continue to form new knowledge and identify new skills, if we continue to advance and adapt and bravely dive into the Skills Abyss, we may find ourselves in a very good, very human era marked by rapid and continuous progress and more fulfilled human workers.

    Note: In the next installment, I will explain why the Human Capital Era mean, both morally and economically, we must invest in all humans.

    This piece was first published on Forbes.

    How To Get Remote Teams To Work Together 960 How To Get Remote Teams To Work Together Thu, 04 Mar 2021 08:00:00 +0000 Guest contributor David Burkus Not everyone though.

    Teams that already had experience working as a team remotely—whether in fully distributed companies or because their offices were already flexible—didn’t suffer the same fate as those teams who had remote work thrust upon them. Because, having learned from experience and trial-and-error, those teams had learned how to “work out loud.” Working out loud means that the team has developed a system to keep track of what everyone is focused on, what’s getting done, as well as a system for asking for and volunteering to give help. It means when project pivots happen, the team doesn’t have to wait for the next all-hands call to find out about it.

    In this article, we’ll cover a simple and easy way to get started helping your team work out loud and, hence, to get your remote team to work together. It all revolves around three easy questions. (And if you’re familiar with the world of Agile and the “scrum,” then you’ll recognize these questions.) Those questions are:

    • What did I just work on?
    • What am I working on?
    • What is blocking my progress?

    You can phrase these questions in a variety of different ways. But the point is that these three, taken together, offer a time to provide a project update, a time to provide a forecast of what’s happening next, and space to make requests for help that often don’t happen on newly remote teams.

    Let’s look at each question in turn.

    What did I just work on?

    Starting with the question of “What did I just work on?” may seem kind of obvious. It’s about progress updates. It’s about breaking the long-term project down into short-term deliverables and being able to track progress accordingly. But it’s also about small wins. It can provide an opportunity to celebrate how far the team has come, and progress is a powerful way to keep a team motivated. And it provides an opportunity to share lessons learned. Rarely, if ever, does a long-term project’s completion end up looking like what was intended at the beginning. That’s because individuals learn, reflect, and change as they get engaged in the work. And sharing “what did I just work on?” also provides the opportunity to also answer “what did I just learn?”

    What am I working on?

    Asking the second question, “what am I working on?,” is also about progress updates. Or better said, it’s about synchronizing tasks and forecasting future progress. It provides an opportunity for everyone to share what their focus is for the next day, week, or however long it is between now and the next check-in. But this question has the added benefit of making sure no one is duplicating effort. Without keeping the team in sync, it’s possible (and frequent) that two individual team members focus on the same set of tasks. Without a chance to have everyone on the team share what their next deliverable is, you could end up only finding out when those tasks are finished. The inverse is also true. Individuals might assume other teammates have got a project task covered and ignore it. And without checking to make sure, critical tasks might never get done. But, taking a quick moment for everyone to answer, “what am I working on?” helps prevent these setbacks.

    What is blocking my progress?

    Speaking of setbacks, the third and final question makes extra sure that people can avoid them. By answering “What is blocking my progress?” individuals on the team have the opportunity to put out a request for help to the whole team. Setbacks happen. People get stuck. But in a remote work environment, they mostly share their stuck-ness with their manager. And that’s how a team of 12 breaks down into just 12 individual relationships. If everyone’s only communicating with a team leader, then the team leader can get overloaded keeping track of who needs what and who else can help. Including this question in regular team check-ins gets the team talking to each other again. By answering “what is blocking my progress?” you make space for teammates to ask for help—and for others to volunteer help.

    You don’t have to ask these exact questions. Depending on the people on your team and the work that you’re doing, you may want to rewrite them to fit a bit better. At the same time, you don’t need to spend too much time focusing on the technology or method you use to track answers to these questions. There is existing software that you can utilize, or plugins to project management software you can install. But the technology doesn’t matter as much as the questions themselves. There are multinational, virtual teams, using simple spreadsheets or daily emails. It doesn’t even have to be daily. Let the team experiment and find the right interval of time that doesn’t overload teammates but doesn’t lead them to under communicate either. To start, just focus on asking these questions, and asking them regularly.

    Because when you focus on these questions and your team is finally comfortable asking and answering them on a regular basis, you’ll find that your team have a much easier time focusing on each other. And that is what really drives a remote team to work together.

    If you want to learn even more about the future of remote work and how to lead your team from wherever you are, check out my new book Leading From Anywhere.

    This article is a repost from David Burkus’ personal blog. Read the original version here.

    Why business needs chaos to thrive 960 Why business needs chaos to thrive Mon, 01 Mar 2021 09:30:00 +0000 Guest Contributor Ken Hughes Sticking with the English language, if you look for synonyms for the word chaos you get the following – disorder, confusion, turmoil, bedlam, lawlessness, pandemonium, or anarchy. They are all words that will make you feel something quite negative, out of control. And as humans we don’t like being out of control, quite the opposite, we crave control over our environment.

    From Chaos to Creativity

    The only problem is, we can’t control everything, and if we do try, then we end up living in a very grey world. Think of what the opposite of chaos is. Our thesaurus tells us its manner, method, mode, order, regularity, rule, system. Basically, predictability and order – good for some things but not for all.

    A life without chaos would be a life without creativity and innovation, a life of the predictable. Which brings me to the point of writing today. 2020 was a year of chaos, socially, economically, politically, medically. The entire of humankind has spent the last 12 months trying to control a chaotic event, trying to predict when, and manipulate, its end.

    More than a year ago, I fell from a two-storey roof to the concrete below, the 30-foot fall taking less than 2 chaotic seconds. The resulting brief paralysis, 31 bone fractures and fragments in my leg, spine and arm, hospital stays, multiple surgeries, wheelchair use, walking frame, crutches, external leg fixator, cast and physio was my own personal chaos journey. My 2020, aside from Covid, was always going to be a challenge.

    Chaos Breeds New Perspective

    But from that chaos has come amazing personal life-changing perception changes, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Chaos is something to be welcomed, embraced, and encouraged. Without it, all we are left with are the predictable outcomes. It is the difference between setting off to sail across the Atlantic or around in circles on a lake.

    Chaos theory is a mathematical theory which seeks to explain complex systems, which may at first appear to behave in a random manner, but in fact there is an underlying order. It was first made popular in the 1960s by a meteorologist named Lorenz, explaining how seemingly complicated and random weather systems in fact had order. Remember chaos is the gap, the white space into which potential can flow.

    A Chinese Butterfly

    Most readers will be familiar with The Butterfly Effect. Say a butterfly flaps its wings in faraway China, but the tiny changes in air pressure have a cascading effect, causing significant wind disturbances, finally culminating in a hurricane in the US. It is a series of chaotic events, each following the next, of which our original butterfly has no knowledge. Perhaps we should re-title this The Bat Effect for a modern telling?

    We have all been involved in multiple Butterfly Effect events personally in our lives. The things you have said and done, many of them small and insignificant, have gone on to influence others around you in significant ways, you will just never know. I can trace my decision to join the dramatic society in university to a specific comment of a stranger. It was to be the beginning of my lifelong passion for the stage, screen and performing.

    Small Input, Significant Outcome

    My key interest in chaos is this final, unpredictable butterfly effect. One of the key aspects of chaos theory is that the smallest of changes can ripple out and result in significant outcomes within the system. But our problem in fostering a culture of creativity and innovation within our businesses and organisations seems to be a paralysing fear of this same chaos.

    Today’s mid-pandemic buzzwords are agility, pivoting, flexibility and adaption. Unless you can change your business model and approach, the rapidly altering trading environment you find yourself in will become your undoing.  Some businesses have chosen to play the waiting game, deciding to wait until things ‘go back to normal’. You might even be working in one of these organisations as you read this, adapting for now but only tactically. The wait is on for the chaos to subside. It is a dangerous wait.

    Rik Vera, a speaker colleague of mine has a lovely way of putting this. He calls it ‘Freezing the Dinosaur’, putting it all on ice until you think it is time for a thawing. But the meteor strike didn’t kill the dinosaurs, it was the change in the environment that resulted in the extinction. Unfreezing your dinosaur after this is all over would only work if the consumer values and trading environment remained identical to the pre-pandemic times. And the step-jump in many behaviours across technical and social are never changing back.

    Preparing For Chaos

    But if we are to embrace chaos as a positive, how do you predict it? How do we prepare ourselves and our organisations for the meteor strike, for the tsunami, for the unknown? This is why most are terrified of chaos – the uncertainty, the lack of a plan.

    I think one of our modern issues is how we structure our organisations and how we recruit talent.

    Taylor and his scientific management approach is blamed for much of the process and silo driven structures we see today, stifling creativity and autonomy. Everyone plays their individual role, we repeat what has worked in the past, and on the machine turns. There was no room for chaos in Taylor’s approach or Ford’s assembly line. For repetitive mechanical tasks, this might make sense, but for todays knowledge economy it does not. Roles, silos and layers of responsibility slows everything down. Outputting the same as we did last year walks us another step closer to the crumbling cliff edge of relevance. We need some unpredictability built in to the system.

    Release the Chaos Monkey

    Netflix famously engineered what they termed ‘Chaos Monkeys’ within their data system (thereafter coining the phrase Chaos Engineering). To ensure that no matter what happened, they purposefully unleashed problems and issues into their data centres to see how the system would cope in continuing to deliver the service.  The Chaos Monkey term was coined to represent “the idea of unleashing a wild monkey with a weapon in your data centre to randomly shoot down instances and chew through cables”. It taught the system to always be ready, always reactive, always prepared for the worst.

    To me that sounds a bit stressful, although I agree with the intent. But monkeys are mischievous and every time I’ve seen them at zoos and parks, they seem rather self-motivated. Which is why I’ve renamed my version as the Chaos Ninja.

    The whole point about being a ninja is that you are somewhat covert, you were usually a hired agent, and your attacks were a surprise, perfect for being a chaos ambassador.

    In modern recruitment, a question often posed is “will this person fit our company culture”? It is a trap that large bureaucratic companies fall into, as well as small start-ups. They recruit the people that will ‘fit’ their culture, automatically loading the dice for a system of conformity and inside the box thinking. Occasionally we should be doing the opposite, looking beyond what and who we think will fit in, and purposefully recruiting some Chaos Ninjas to challenge the system.

    A Cookie Cutter Recruit

    My first full-time job out of university was with Accenture (then Andersen Consulting as they had yet to rebrand post their sister company Andersen Accounting scandal … yes, I am that old). I was one of 7 new recruits to the Strategy Consulting Division of the UK/Ireland office. After our initial orientation over a number of weeks, I noticed something disturbing. We were all the same. Same broad over-achiever personalities, same entrepreneurship drive, same hobbies often, same life outlook. The recruitment process was long and arduous with personality testing at its core. The organisation was looking for a particular ‘type’ to be a strategy consultant, and they hired that same type repeatedly. The result was that on any given project, they had one way of thinking, one approach, one probable output.

    That suited the way Andersen Consulting worked in the late 1990s – they wanted that same output to a given set of problems, the model was built that way, but it wouldn’t work today. But yet recruitment to a certain culture still is the norm.

    So, to survive we need to inject more uncertainty into the system, different ways of thinking, more chaos, to let things emerge as opposed to control the outcome. The pushback is often that this will cause undesired complexity in the everyday and sometimes it might.

    Take two customer experience examples of employee autonomy and complexity. In the grocery store Trader Joe’s, if you ever ask an employee if you can try something, they will open the box and let you, no questions asked. Does this add complexity to the everyday? Sure. Does it also build customer loyalty, experience and belonging beyond what competitors do? Absolutely. It also creates an informal feedback loop through employees who report customer feedback to those buying for the business.

    Surprise a Customer

    The Ritz Carlton are known for their giving employees a budget to spend on making customers happy, no questions asked. This is, by its very nature, unpredictable and so the management have no idea what the money is being spent on, but they trust that it will add to customer experience. Chaotic as an idea, or a genius way to ensure CX autonomy in a complex system?

    Even traditional structures such as the military have recognised the importance of chaos in command. The old ways of working were no longer suited to the more ‘chaotic’ activity of the terrorist warfare they found themselves fighting. In his book ‘Team of Teams’, General Mcchrystal says that “ … the temptation to lead as a chess master, controlling each move of the organization, must give way to an approach as a gardener, enabling rather than directing … the leader acts as an “Eyes-On, Hands-Off” enabler who creates and maintains an ecosystem in which the organization operates.”

    The idea here is that you have to allow some element of chaos within your own system if you are to operate in a chaotic environment, able to adapt as change rains down.

    Chaos is Jazz

    So, what is chaos then? What does it look like? Where is the box to tick and the To Do list to achieve it? That is best answered by Louis Armstrong when he said “If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.”  Chaos Theory is similar.  It can’t be boiled down to easily understood scientific laws, great business book narratives, credentials or 8-step plans.  Similar to jazz, it is improvisational in nature.

    Chaos works because of its unpredictability. It works by the fact that we don’t quite know how it might work. We can’t predict the outcome but we know there will be one. It is in the unplanned interactions that we might find that magic we seek. Steve Jobs famously designed the Apple Headquarters with narrow corridors, forcing you to bump into other colleagues you might not regularly work with, forcing interactivity and perhaps new collaborations or thinking.

    This year is again all about chaos. But stop thinking of that as a negative thing. Embrace chaos, be excited about unpredictability. The best stories always start with “you’ll never guess what happened to me” and so it should be in business too. We need to recruit more creative people, talent to challenge norms and system-rules, we need to be open to new ways of looking at our world. This is the diversity argument but beyond gender or race. This is about spirit.

    You can hire in some chaos ninjas, but better still, let your inner-chaos ninja out. If your boss asks why you are working from home dressed all in black with a red headband, send them this link.

    This article is a repost from Ken Hughes’ personal website. Read the original version here.

    Ken Hughes is one of the top speakers of nexxworks’ Mission CX program and considered one of the World’s leading virtual speakers on the subject of consumer values, organizational change, leadership and agility. His virtual keynotes are famous for their high-energy, thought provoking content as well as their impactful and inspiring delivery.

    To let some chaos into your life (in a good way!) and to book Ken for your virtual event, click here.

    Thanks to Rik Vera for his ‘Freeze the Dinosaur’ analogy and to Paul Millard for his inspiring essay entitled ‘Integrating Chaos’ from which some of the above examples are drawn.

    What content marketing can teach us about employee experience 960 What content marketing can teach us about employee experience Tue, 23 Feb 2021 08:39:00 +0000 Julie Vens - De Vos We knew this was coming

    Peter Hinssen visited San Francisco twice with a group of business leaders to tackle the question: what IS the future of work? Here are some, yet not all of the signals and questions we brought home:

    • Purpose is king
    • Employee experience requires just as much attention as customer experience
    • How can technology and the human touch win together?
    • Leadership requires some fundamental shifts.
    • How to change internal communication in a constantly changing world that is shifting from top-bottom leadership to networked decision making?

    As interesting as each of these subjects are, today I’d like to focus on one example in particular: internal communications. Just as we invested massively in content marketing for customers to build our brands, I believe we need to do the same efforts for our teams.

    Internal Content marketing

    I don’t like the word marketing here, as you don’t ‘sell’ your culture to your employees. Yet ‘content marketing’ is not about directly selling something either. It’s about building a relationship of shared ideas and values with your customer. Change and marketing consultancy agency Callebaut Collective also voices this in their latest book ‘Act Human’: Marketing is about building relationships. That’s where you create true value exchange. Don’t we need this internally within our teams as well to be successful?

    Content marketing emerged as soon as we arrived in a multichannel world. The opportunity was evident: more channels to engage with your customers means more customer touchpoints to make them love you. The result was a need for curation, and relevance. As we learned a while ago from the take-aways of ‘2018 Medialaan’s Fuel Conference:

    • Connect: multiple channels allow to build conversations rather than monologues.
    • Trust: how can we build trust in a multichannel world
    • Hustle: how do you organize in an always-on world? It requires work, discipline and strategy.
    • Relevance: whatever channel strategy you use, think first what story you’d like to tell.

    Content marketing has shown how impactful investing in communication can be, but also how crucial it is to stand out in a world of constant messaging. As a company, you need to make sure that your teams love your brand, your purpose, your strategy, your goals. A big kick-off conference at the start of the year is still fun, engaging and a great start but it won’t be enough anymore to stand out every single day. It wasn’t enough in an office-led world, it is devastating in a world where work is no longer strictly linked to the office.

    Why not investing in internal content marketing might lead to burn-out

    Another reason why we owe it to our teams to invest in employee marketing, is their very own well-being. As this HBR article points out: ‘burnout is more than just an employee problem; it’s an organizational problem that requires an organizational solution’. Christina Maslach of the University of California, Berkeley, Susan E. Jackson of Rutgers, and Michael Leiter of Deakin University, point to six main causes of burn-out:

    1. Unsustainable workload
    2. Perceived lack of control
    3. Insufficient rewards for effort
    4. Lack of a supportive community
    5. Lack of fairness
    6. Mismatched values and skills

    Many of these causes can be linked to a lack of enough context for people. Context means communication, means connections, means conversations. So instead of investing in yoga sessions or meditation apps, we might try improving our internal communication plan first?

    Nevertheless, even that won’t be a silver bullet solution, but more a continuous investment. We can share all the content and context we want and listen as much as we can; we won’t be able to change the simple fact that change is not a one-time event that happens every 5 years, but rather a continuous description of the situation. But we like how April Rinne guides us into that new world of flux in which she advocates for a flux mindset: ‘A flux mindset is your compass for change, your barometer for being, your telescope to see and show up fully in a world of flux.’ Read more about how she invites you to look at that here.

    What can we learn from content marketing for customers?

    Let’s not try and reinvent the wheel but look at how content marketeers have built their discipline throughout the years. I like how nexxworks thought leader Steven Van Belleghem puts it: ‘I believe in the combination of common sense, new technologies, an empathic human touch, playing the long-term game and taking your social responsibility to win the hearts and business of customers over and over again.’. If we change the word ‘customers’ to ‘employees’ we have a good starting point.

    Following Wikipedia’s definition of content marketing: this is about creating, publishing and distributing content for a certain goal. It’s recommended for attracting attention, increasing awareness (about your strategy and goals) and to engage your (employee) community towards your goals.

    Content marketing runs on one fuel: data. Which is another building block to pursue. As you’ve built customer data, invested in ‘KYC’ (Know Your Customer), are you building the same capabilities and systems regarding managing employee data? Do you know your people? It’s needed to think about your employee data management as it’s the fuel for a personalized employee experience, as well as to manage your employee marketing strategy effectively. If there’s one thing we know about technology, is that in only runs on data. Innovation in this landscape is not far away, with start-ups like Huapii in Belgium or large companies like OC Tanner or Microsoft building their culture through data, or building the systems for you to use. In 2020 our programs showed an increased interest in internal network mapping where experts like Greg Satell, Rob Cross and Stan McChrystal help map the internal networks that are actually driving impact and relationships within a company. It often shows how it’s not so much the organization chart that does matter, but that it is certain people, certain micro-networks that decide whether an idea becomes success.


    Above is just merely scratching the surface of ideas we can build on to build a powerful internal communication strategy. As we’ve seen in marketing: you won’t succeed if you put only your marketing team in charge of this. Just as leadership, sales and marketing need to speak with one voice to provide successful content marketing for customers, so does HR need to work together with business leaders and top leadership. The necessary investments in data, tooling and process have to made on the level of the organization. One leader alone won’t be able to pull off a large-scale movement, it requires a holistic strategy and operation.

    As one executive on one of those future of work trip voiced: ‘those CEOs at Airbnb and Google, they’re actually performers. They are the ones on stage. The leaders of tomorrow not only require vision, they need to make sure they actually have a strategy to manage the fan-base’.

    I’m curious how you are building your Employee Content Strategy! Don’t be a stranger, reach out with your story to and let’s have a chat on how we can share and learn from each other.

    Was the internet stolen from us? 960 Was the internet stolen from us? Thu, 18 Feb 2021 08:49:00 +0000 Rik Vera The creator of Wikis, Ward Cunningham, imagined a collaborative tool. Before the internet, Cunningham created a HyperCard system with screens that connected to other screens, so that people within a company could search for ideas. He also wanted to make it boundless. If you wanted to know more about a certain concept, but that concept didn’t yet exist, he programmed the system to automatically make a new information sheet about that concept. In this way, the people could keep pushing the boundaries. It was such a fascinating idea that Cunningham often found people gathered around his desk, wanting to see how it worked and learn more. Until the internet came along.

    The gift of knowledge

    The internet allowed Cunningham to take this HyperCard system and transform it into the WikiWikiWeb, commonly known as Wikis. He wanted everyone to be able to add their own insight to build a knowledge base that was based not on a single perspective, but on a multitude. It is a system where everyone can add and edit content, but are encouraged not to sign their work. Cunningham believed that it should be like a gift of knowledge. People from around the world were able to infuse their own perspective, thus providing a global overview of the topic that is not based on one person’s background. This was the vision for the internet, a place of distributed authority. It’s transparent and unfiltered. It’s much closer to reality.

    This ideology may have been admirable, but it was victim to three severe mistakes. The creators of the internet underestimated the sheer number of people who would write content on the internet. Participation couldn’t be expressed in terms of thousands or millions, but rather in billions. They also underestimated human nature and the commercial potential of the internet.

    Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, was quick to identify the potential of the internet. He originally created ‘The Facebook’ as an online directory of students at Harvard. Using this directory, you could find out information about other students at the college. Zuckerberg started small, first expanding ‘The Facebook’ to Yale, Stanford and Colombia before widening the scope to other colleges as well. In his first interview with CNBC, Zuckerberg described ‘The Facebook’ as an online directory where you could “find interesting information about people”. He stated that the most important aspect of the directory was being able to see who people’s friends were, although it also gathered other personal details such as your interests, favourite books and college major.

    A mirror of real-life

    In another early interview, Mark Zuckerberg outlined that his aim with this directory of students was not to create an online community but rather a mirror of real-life community. His idea was that people would use Facebook to see who knew who and thus use this information as an icebreaker to initiate conversations in real-life. Facebook wasn’t about connecting people, it was about gleaning information about people. The key to making this work was to make the site interesting enough so that people would want to use it and eventually become addicted.

    Mark Zuckerberg saw the potential of using the community aspect to make people addicted to Facebook, gather their data and sell it for a return. Other companies, such as Google and Amazon, also saw this potential and started to use the internet as a tool to make money. The internet was designed as a communications tool, but it became a tool for commerce, a means of making money. Although the internet was intended to free the world from one singular authority, it is now dominated by a few giants who set the pace. The freedom it once afforded disappeared.

    Steve Ballmer, former CEO at Microsoft, warned of the dangers of scale and the resulting impact on the internet. Data and algorithms match publishers, who want to sell ads, to advertisers, who want to buy them. The more inventory publishers possess, the more people bid for ad spots. As a result, prices rise and the publisher makes more money. Scale invites more scale. That’s how feedback loops work. The more players you have on the market, the more people will want to join. However, if only one company benefits from this scale, value will eventually be transferred from publishers and advertisers into the ecosystem of data and algorithms. Over time, this would lead to one person essentially controlling all ads, with the ability to determine how much your business is worth. This is where the internet went wrong. Rather than removing the singular authority, it led to the institution of a new singular authority.

    Gather data, (divide) and conquer

    Instead of trying to bring people together and build a community, companies like Facebook have gathered data on people in order to divide them. Social media is not really a type of media. It is the fabric of our society. Using algorithms, Facebook can segment people into clusters of people who think alike, who have similar interests and beliefs. These groups represent valuable data that they can sell to advertisers for targeted marketing. The algorithms that connect millions of people are designed for marketing and commercial purposes, playing with people’s emotions to get the response they want. They’re not made to create lasting connections.

    In our ever more connected world and fast-paced society, communications need to happen quickly. Now we even see the estimated reading time on articles as we scroll further and further down the endless newsfeed. This speed causes us to fall back on our basic emotions: fear, aggression and lust (or instant gratification). I like to call this our reptile brain. Marketing algorithms are particularly suited to these primitive emotions. We no longer make decisions like we used to, looking at the long-term vision, making sacrifices and toughing it out for future gain. That was our rational brain. In a fast-paced world, our reptile brain takes over from the rational brain. Our reptile brain responds to the three basic emotions of fear, aggression and lust.

    Remember the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2016 surrounding the US elections and the Brexit referendum? Alexander Nix, then CEO of Cambridge Analytica, used data provided by Facebook to identify people’s biggest fears. He knew that it is incredibly difficult to discover what someone’s dream is, because people often don’t know exactly what their dream is themselves. Fears, on the other hand, are easy to detect. Alexander Nix used these fears to unite people against a single enemy: “the establishment”. During the 2016 US election campaign, Cambridge Analytica shared around 50,000 different messages in Trump’s name. These messages contained different content targeted to each voter, playing on the fears identified using their data and uniting them against their common enemy.

    Instant reward

    Social media is designed to be a place of instant reward. It is the new social fabric of our world, which is based on our most primitive reptile brain. Social media groups people into clusters, which have accidentally become echo chambers. By conversing with like-minded people, your ideas aren’t challenged but instead cemented. Rather than benefiting from a global vision, people are exposed to a reduced reality. As a result, the internet is being used to sow discord. The alt-right has used social media for years to sow fear of the establishment. The platform social media has provided us is not giving the ordinary man a place to air his views, but rather is using the ordinary man as a mouthpiece, stoking confrontation and presenting an alternative to the controlled offline world. Online happenings can rapidly influence events offline. It may even lead to civil war.

    Social media has made us feel like we are the centre of the world and that, as a result, we can do whatever we want there. Nevertheless, the divide between our online and offline universes is narrowing. Long gone are the days when we had to dial up to the internet. Remember that awful screeching sound you had to endure as your computer took a few minutes to connect to the server, thus disconnecting your landline phone? Those days are over. Instead of purposefully accessing the internet, we can now conduct a simple Google search with the tap of a button or even using our voice. This notion of “connecting” to the internet is unknown to young people who have grown up as a connected generation, always online.

    In 2015 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Eric Schmidt, Google’s Chairman and ex-CEO, sent shockwaves around the room as he stated: “The Internet will disappear”. What he meant was that the internet would become so integrated into our lives, so seamless to use, that we would no longer regard it as a thing. He explained: “There will be so many IP addresses … so many devices, sensors, things that you are wearing, things that you are interacting with that you won’t even sense it. It will be part of your presence all the time. Imagine you walk into a room, and the room is dynamic. And with your permission and all of that, you are interacting with the things going on in the room.”

    The internet is now a fundamental component of our lives. The EU is even examining the implementation of a new human right – the right to disconnect. There is an expectation nowadays that we are always connected, we are always reachable. The internet is so integrated into our everyday lives that we have transformed from homo sapiens into OMO sapiens (online merged with offline). If you really think about it, can you identify where your online life ends and your offline life begins? Although you may be spending time with friends and family in person, your phone is likely within arm’s reach, with the possibility to hop back online within seconds of a notification sounding. It’s no longer about making the choice to connect once or twice a day. We are always connected.

    The OMO Sapiens

    2020 accentuated our new status as OMO sapiens. In many cases, the police would have jailed people if they did what they do online in real life. And yet, our online world often seeps into our offline world. Ideas spread online before they jump offline like a fireball that devastates reality. The events at the Capitol are a perfect example. Nobody tries to stop these trends when they are small and seemingly insignificant. By the time they do act, it is often too late.

    Governments took quick forceful action to halt the coronavirus pandemic. Many countries went into lockdown and took various measures to limit people’s activities within their countries. Schools, shops and theatres were forced to close down, the government imposed a set number of social contacts and face masks became compulsory in many public places to limit the spread of the virus. Yet, online little action is taken to stop the spread of incendiary messages, radical ideas and harmful comments. The way in which we tackle online viruses is a far cry from the measures governments took in 2020 to stop coronavirus in its tracks.

    Many people, including politicians, warn that social media presents a serious threat to democracy. And it does. But how can we solve this problem? We can’t ask social networks to change their algorithms, because that wouldn’t really tackle the heart of the problem. So what if we tried to change the input into the algorithms, excluding some messages such as certain political ideas? This isn’t an option either. This would be an infringement of free speech and thus also endanger democracy. We are trying to manage the new social fabric using rules that date back to Napoleon’s time. It’s just not possible.

    Catch 22 for democracy

    The world seems to have been turned upside down. Liberals want to impose harder rules on social media, while conservatives fight to retain the right to free speech. Democracy is at stake, but we’re stuck in a Catch 22. Social media poses a threat to democracy, but the solutions we could employ to alleviate that threat would also endanger democracy.

    The internet was designed as a tool to connect people, to create international communities, to share knowledge. Social media and internet giants have made it a place of commerce primarily, with data as the commodity to be sold. In this way, they have sown discord that doesn’t remain online but directly influences our offline worlds. A democratic system built on one central authority is not armed to deal with a hyper-connected world. Trying to stop the stream of data is like raising your hand to stop a tsunami. We didn’t realise it before, but social media have been working in the shadows to steal the internet from under our very noses. And no one seems to know how to fix it.

    Retailers Don't Want Returns. Here's What It Means For Customers. 960 Retailers Don't Want Returns. Here's What It Means For Customers. Mon, 15 Feb 2021 13:03:00 +0000 Guest Contributor Blake Morgan Online Shopping Boost Drives Online Return Boost

    The practice of not asking customers to send back small returns isn’t brand new, but it has definitely been magnified by COVID as a record number of people are shopping online and shipping and logistics companies are overwhelmed by deliveries.

    Processing online returns can cost retailers $10-$20 per item. For smaller items that cost less than $20, it can actually lead to a loss to take the item back instead of simply issuing a refund and moving on. The stores’ AI algorithms can also pinpoint items that the store doesn’t intend to resell.

    In normal times, 25-30% of online purchases are returned. But more customers are “bracketing” or buying the same product in multiple sizes or colors with plans to return what they don’t want or need, leading to a surge in online returns.

    In the first week of 2021, UPS accepted 1.75 million returns into its system every day. The expected nearly 9 million returns in a week is a 23% increase over last year’s holiday season. That increase in returns can be crushing for retailers and delivery services.

    Effect On Customers

    For customers, getting a refund without having to return a product can be a win-win. It saves them a trip to the post office, but it also leaves them with a small item they don’t want and now have to find something to do with. But for the most part, customers seem excited about the new systems. It’s a new way for brands to build goodwill with customers through “free” products that are actually helping the company save money.

    In recent years, retailers like Amazon and Walmart have introduced partnerships to pick up return items from customers’ homes or to return Amazon items at Kohl’s or Whole Foods. But as the pandemic rages, fewer customers want to go to physical stores. The switch to a simple refund boosts the overall experience and shows retailers are doubling down on customer safety.

    But don’t think you can order a bunch of small items and return them all in hopes of getting everything for free. Most retailers’ AI systems also take into effect a customer’s purchase history and can detect customers who abuse the system.

    Effect On Sustainability

    E-commerce returns are an often-overlooked contributor to environmental struggles. This is especially true in the apparel industry, which is the second-largest polluting industry in the world. In a single year, online returns can create 5 billion tons of landfill waste and produce the same amount of carbon dioxide that 3 million cars make in a year. When multiplied by the record-setting online shopping and returns of recent months, the environmental effects can be staggering.

    When a customer returns an item, it costs the company additional labor and packaging, as well as the fuel costs and impact of sending the item back. The issue has become so large that some retailers, including Nordstrom, have incorporated returns management into their social responsibility plan. Not accepting small-item returns for shipping could make a dent in a store’s environmental impact.

    New refund practices benefit everyone: retailers, customers and the environment. In the constantly changing retail world, this is a change everyone can get behind.

    Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker and the author of the bestselling book The Customer Of The Future. Sign up for her weekly newsletter here.

    Blake Morgan is one of the top speakers on our online customer experience community Mission CX. Check the full program here.

    This piece was first published on

    Why Play Drives Change 960 Why Play Drives Change Fri, 12 Feb 2021 08:42:00 +0000 Guest contributor Peter Vander Auwera Deeply influenced by the work of Robert Fritz on structural conflict and structural tension, and that structure drives everything - especially behavior - I became dissatisfied by the responsive reaction in many organizations that can be summarized as “what problem are you trying to solve?” It is too solutionist, reductionist to my tasting, and I prefer Robert’s suggestion of the creative orientation of the artist or creator who is not solving a problem but develops mastery to create what she really wants.

    So, the key starting point is to know what you want. Let that sink in for a moment. To know what you want.

    Once you know what you want, you can create and change the structure that will at least be helpful – not working against you – in letting emerge and amplify the behavior that leads to what you want.

    Structure is broader here than hierarchy or reporting lines. Structure includes contexts, vision, vehicles, mechanisms, and networks. Like an architect, you design spaces and structures to enable certain preferred – at time messy – human behaviors. In a corporate environment, you don’t architect buildings, but you architect contexts. You become a context designer. As an architect, you are not only responsible for the imaginative part, but also for seeing through the execution ànd adaptation needed as the context changes throughout time. Structure and contexts drive flows of information. Like water in a riverbed, if you change the course of the riverbed, the water will behave differently.

    Structure drives flow drives behavior.

    Let’s add Leandro Herrero in the mix. He wrote “Viral Change” and “Homo Imitans”. Key insights: people copy behavior and behaviors drive culture. If you plant people with the desired behavior into your organization, there is a good chance others will start copying that behavior. Hence “Imitans”. Like viruses infecting others – in a positive way. Do I need to make a drawing in this Covid-19 era?

    Leandro’s bottom-line: behavior drives change and not the other way. And you can design for certain preferred behaviors. It’s bottom-up. It is not because an executive team defines culture that everybody will start behaving like it. It is because you have seeded infectious behavior that a culture will emerge through imitation.

    Like changing and influencing the structure of a building or a riverbed, we can influence the information flows in organizations. These changed flows lead to different behaviors that on their term drive culture. In the end culture drives change and advancement.

    Structure drives flow drives behavior drives culture drives change.

    In 1938, the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga wrote a book titled “Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture”. The core message of Huizinga is that play drives culture.

    That the disposition of a culture is already embedded in the play preceding it.

    “By this we do not mean that play turns into culture, rather that in its earliest phases culture has the play-character, that it proceeds in the shape and the mood of play (Huizinga)”

    “There is a third function, however, applicable to both human and animal life, and just as important as reasoning and making—namely, playing. (Huizinga)”

    This brings me to the insights of John Seely Brown in “A New Culture of Learning”, who quotes Huizinga extensively.

    Visual/Insight inspired by John Seely Brown (JSB)

    John Seely Brown talks about a “21st Century Augmented Imagination”, with a better balance between Homo Sapiens (Man as a Thinker), Homo Faber (Man as a Maker), and Homo Ludens (Man as a Player). Where imagination is triggered, tested, and augmented by play. And discovering the rules of the (future) game to play by playing it.

    “In a world of near-constant flux, play becomes a strategy for embracing change, rather than a way for growing out of it (JSB)”

    So, by adding “play drives culture”, we get:

    Play drives structure drives flow drives behavior drives culture drives change.

    Or in simpler, reductionist terms:

    Play drives change.

    What does the future hold for you? 960 What does the future hold for you? Tue, 09 Feb 2021 15:43:00 +0000 France Van Nieuwenborgh Nancy Rademaker invited 2 panellists to her digital table: 

    Shannon Lucas: As part of the Cisco Hyperinnovation Living Lab, or CHILL, Shannon Lucas leverages her extensive experience in collaborative innovation, bringing together giants of industry to develop new businesses and markets. 

    Laetitia Vitaud: Laetitia Vitaud is a writer and speaker about the future of work and consumption. 

    Three things that leaders most often get wrong about technology 960 Three things that leaders most often get wrong about technology Mon, 08 Feb 2021 14:20:00 +0000 Joren Lemiegre And yet, here we are. A lot of organizations are still struggling with technology and digitization. That’s why I thought it would be useful to share the three things that leaders most often forget about technology.

    Data is king but intelligence rules the house

    From the printer in your office over the machines in your manufacturing facility to the smart coffee mug owned by the bearded hipster in your marketing department, nowadays everything seems to come with sensors. Not only is this just the beginning (5G will unleash an enormous potential here), all these “things” create an enormous amount of data.

    All this data offers major opportunities for companies. Every major AI firm nowadays will tell you this: data is king and the more data you can gather, the better. While they are absolutely right, gathering data is only the starting point.

    Imagine this: you have the smartest factory in the world, with thousands of sensors gathering data. What happens next? Are you ready to use that data? Were you prepared for those data streams? And can you use it intelligently to improve your processes, predict problems or deliver a better customer experience?

    The disappointing answer is often“no” and the intelligence behind that data is where the real value is hidden.

    Therefore, it is critical to outline how data will improve your business at both strategic and tactical levels. Do not forget to invest in BI tools and train your staff for data-driven decision making. And no, Excel is not a BI-tool. (although I still believe that its inventor should get a Noble prize someday.) Also, please don’t make the mistake of thinking that an analytics tool is something that can be installed once and then will work perfectly without any intervention: someone has to keep asking if your data streams are still relevant, if you can add other data from other sources or if the context has changed and so the algorithms should too.

    Technology is here to augment people.

    In the past century, technology has enabled companies to do more with less people. AI, IoT and big data will speed up this process even more in the coming years. Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google assumes that computers will achieve humanlike intelligence by 2029 and singularity by 2045.

    Depending on who you are, that might sound exciting or frightening. It will change the way we work forever and that’s why technology needs to be approached from another perspective.

    In my opinion, companies investing in a way to augment humans with technology, rather than replacing them by technology will be stronger, more agile and more resilient than their competitors.

    To do so, it is necessary to start exploring the world of the augmented employee today. Some companies are already doing just that with Augmented Reality (for order picking, medical operations, etc.) but many more opportunities lie ahead in the field.

    In a way, our smartphones are already a step towards the augmented human because they help us navigate, calculate, translate, meditate and so much more.

    It might be a good idea to start there and see what technological advances from the well-known smartphone world you can bring into the workplace. After all, our smartphones are packed with sensors and developing software for them can be hardly called rocket-science. Especially combined with smart wearables or smart textiles, they offer a lot of potential. Think about dangerous environments where these sensors can monitor the heart rate, body temperature, location, and situation (standing, lying on the ground, etc.) from your employees to check whether they are ok or not.

    Do not forget there is a human side to technology on the work floor as well. Stimulate the use of wellbeing apps, use them to help employees to eat healthy or engage in sports from time to time. Not everybody will be open to it but the credo “Mens sana in corpore sano” (healthy mind in a healthy body) is still very much true.

    Technology should be implemented from the bottom up.

    I am a geek and I love new technology. It makes me happy and so do its advantages. Over the years however, I have experienced that I am an outlier and that is something to think about.

    Before joining nexxworks, a colleague of mine at an IT company migrated a customer from Windows XP to Windows 7. When he came into that office, the morning after the migration, one of the users was crying in front of her computer because she could not figure out how to work with that “new computer”.

    While my story might be the exception rather than the rule, it illustrates why technology adoption is often very slow: users need to be on board before you can make any changes.

    People embrace technology in their personal lives all the time. They use banking apps, fitness apps, heck, people even milk cows on their phones. The essence here is that these apps make things simpler, more efficient, and more convenient.

    The OS upgrade in my example achieved none of the things above. From a security perspective it absolutely makes sense to upgrade but not from a user perspective. Therefore, a couple of things to consider before implementing something new. Whether it is a new machine, a new app or a new way of working, consider this:

    • If you invest in technology, also invest in reskilling and learning.
    • Involve people in the process. Let them test, comment and suggest improvements.
    • When you involve people: never, ever try to change your new tools so they fit the way you are working today. Adapt your way of working to the tools you want to work with or select another tool. If not, nothing will ever change within your organization.
    • Dare to try something new. It’s not because none of the Fortune500 companies are currently using that new technology that it might not be a fit for your organization.

    Technology is a wonderful tool, which can help your company achieve many things. But it is also “just” a tool. It’s those companies that use tech to create better lives and better work for humans - customers and employees - that will keep themselves relevant in the future.

    E-book: The fundamentals of Open Leadership 960 E-book: The fundamentals of Open Leadership Wed, 03 Feb 2021 13:46:00 +0000 Laurence Van Elegem Our vision of leadership has evolved a lot over the past few years, transforming along with society, our world and our companies. We’re a long way from the unflinching strategist leader who needed to have the answer to everything in order to be taken seriously. Especially in these pandemic times where the ‘the element of surprise’ has reached new levels, leaders need to be comfortable with everything VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity).

    Writing this e-book, the common denominator for all the characteristics listed below seemed to me to be extreme openness. Old school leaders had a closed mindset. They kept strategic information to themselves and stuck to the boundaries of their own company and sector. They saw dissent as a threat, feedback as an insult and the competition as villains. 

    But the best leaders of today are open to new ideas, to feedback, to help, to possibilities, to new connections, to learning (from failure), to risk, to the long term future and even to the entire world. In fact, what was once often perceived as weakness in leaders, has now unfolded to become their biggest strength.

    Enjoy this nexxworks e-book with the learnings I gathered by following some of the world’s most successful leaders. You can download it below. 👇

    What does the future hold for the organization? 960 What does the future hold for the organization? Tue, 02 Feb 2021 15:43:00 +0000 France Van Nieuwenborgh Nancy Rademaker invited 3 panellists to her digital table: 

    Barry O'Reilly: A business advisor, entrepreneur, and author who has pioneered the intersection of business model innovation, product development, organizational design, and culture transformation.

    Ank De Wilde: With 10 years experience as entrepreneur and CEO of a people & value driven engineering company Absolem, Ank has shown up as a visionary leader and pioneer in the future of the workplace. Consciously shaping a company that puts people and society first, she’s intuitively guiding the company into a new narrative.

    Hemerson Paes: As a Senior Global Network Catalyst, he has 10 years of experience at the pharmaceutical company Roche, a global pioneer in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics, with medicines in oncology, immunology, infectious diseases, cancer diagnostics, diabetes management, etc.

    Can China save the planet? 960 Can China save the planet? Tue, 02 Feb 2021 09:17:00 +0000 Pascal Coppens Last week, in one of his first acts as President of the Unites States of America, Joe Biden signed an executive order to rejoin the Paris climate agreement. This is marvelous news!
    Especially, as the world had lived in suspense with Trump’s denial on climate change and America leaving the Paris commitments in 2017. All environmental eyes were focused on the U.S. election for the past months. But unless we get China to play its role, the world will enter the worst of times this decade – a point of no return. China’s battle to heal its environment is even more urgent and challenging than it is for America or Europe. Therefore, we cannot afford to look away if we still intend to save humanity. Not Biden, but Xi will decide the fate of our planet. We should look towards the East instead of the West to save the earth.