We all have choices….

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But do we master their use?

I spent some time last week with one of Australia’s great leaders, Brigadier Mark Smethurst.

Mark has just retired from the military after an outstanding career (Mark’s Bio).

He’s also just been appointed the Commissioner of NSW State Emergency Services (SES Appointment). A great role for him to continue to keep us all safe!

Mark is an amazing leader, and a great Australian who is recognised on the global stage.

One of the things Mark and I were working on was how leaders make choices in terms of their mindset and behaviour.

The big idea is as follows:

  • We all have personal and professional choices we need to make every day
  • And the biggest choices we have is our attitude and mindset
  • We can choose to panic, be protective, or to stay open and assertive
  • We can choose to be negative, or look for opportunities and go after them
  • Leaders MASTER the choices they make
  • They choose to think positively
  • They avoid being duplicitous
  • They consider their actions and behaviour and lead by example
  • And with people
  • They treat them with relentless respect, regardless of history

All great stuff and highly aspirational and rational!

But how do you go about doing this?

Well, we developed some techniques to assist. Here they are:

Know your personal values intimately – measure every choice against your personal values (you know, the ones that came from your family, your upbringing, your community). So many choices are made subconsciously that you need to be really clear on your values so that you choose approaches consistent with those values.

Be aware of the consequences of your choices – not every choice needs to be made right now, notwithstanding mindset choices are often emotional. Take time to consider the outcomes of your choices. A choice may have a small impact today, but big impacts over time. Other choices can have more immediate consequences. Just don’t throw caution to the wind as each choice starts a trajectory….

Ask a friend! – It’s not just a slogan for a TV show. Choices can be overwhelming. Get some advice from someone independent of the situation. Make your own call but take the time to consult.

Make choices automatic by forming habits – Habits streamline the process reducing the thought process. They can therefore help create sustainable good choices. To create a habit often means changing a habit and that takes willpower, character, & practice.

See every day as a fresh start – Making repeated bad choices can feel depressing and get you down. As Churchill said, “Never give in! Never give in! Never give in!”. Every day is opportunity to start afresh. Learn a lesson and get back on and begin again.

Mark is an awesome example of someone who makes great choices.

We all can be….

Internet..marginal propensity to consume what?

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Merry Christmas everybody!! No political correctness here!

I was just sitting here watching the news and heard how, at Christmas, tech is the huge driver of internet usage.

Fair call! It actually is very important.

I then heard a classic techno-person (you know the type…jeans, t-shirt, unkempt hair… fan boy for free internet for everybody, anything but fibre to you ear is unacceptable blah blah blah) tell us that we therefore need super fast internet now.

Ok, fair enough.

We do all want super fast internet. Of course we do.

Business is a no-brainer. But so do consumers.

And more and more it is really important to us. For everyday things. The things that weren’t everyday that long ago. and more for interaction beyond social texting, for video, and entertainment and health.

Now, I can’t admit I’m a great fan-boy admirer. I’m not someone who respects people for getting on a band wagon for the sake of, well, the band-wagon. Political correctness free zone here.

So here’s my comment.

Yes people want super fast internet.

BUT….are they prepared to PAY for it?

Yes, I mean pull out cold hard cash and put it on the table like they do for their weekly groceries and extravagant power bills. And yes for their home mortgages.

Are they?

I reckon not.

I reckon people are prepared to continue to pay what they pay for communications but expect more for the same price.

That’s an interesting economic issue as super-fast stuff requires massive capital investment (yes, A$76m for the NBN if I remember the non-political real cost from the strategic review of the NBN I undertook). And someone needs to pay for that.

I did an economics major many years ago…I reckon marginal propensity to consume is something that the fan-boys need to consider.

The fastest network in the world with inter-galactic speeds to play games with scratchy beards and sodas is great.

But if the majority aren’t prepared to pay more – they want more for the same price.

A politically incorrect perspective is needed.

Now, I’ve got to go back to big bash cricket and that wonderful Christian tradition of Christmas.

Merry Christmas peeps!

Disrupt thyself

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I interviewed Whitney Johnson a couple of weeks ago.

Whitney is the leading thinker on driving corporate innovation through personal disruption. She co-founded Rose Park Advisors, a boutique investment firm, with Clayton Christensen. In 2015 Whitney was recognized as one of the world’s most influential management thinkers, and was a finalist for the Top thinkers on Talent at the biennial Thinkers50 ceremony in London.

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So she is well credentialed!I was interested in Whitney’s thinking. She describes a path of competence where, as our competence increases, so does our confidence. But there comes a point, a maturity point, where the increase in competence flattens out.

That’s the point where disruption comes into play.

Because one has to make a decision. Track along in a mature state, but not growing. Or doing something brave, and jumping off the current curve and starting a new one.

It’s easy to talk about, but harder to do.

I’ve done it a few times in my career. In fact, I’ve done it recently.

I don’t see the point in going along on the same curve. I like the thrill of the growth curve. I guess that’s why I see myself as a driver of transformation, innovation, and growth, my personal tag line.

But that’s not for everyone. I get that.

Disruption is everywhere.  And its impacting more and more of us. Perhaps the attitude driven by the competence and maturity curve is something everyone needs to consider.

Food for thought.

Simplifying big ideas

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Last week I had the great honour of meeting with Google/Alphabet’s former CFO Patrick Pichette.

I was the interviewer and Patrick was the interviewee at CPA Congress. I wanted to call it “In significantly better conversation with Tim” but I thought discretion, rather than valour, when I saw my good mate Alex Malley’s face on the billboard at the airport again. Oh well, Patrick and I thought it was pretty good anyway!

You know when you meet someone who has the ability to simplify big, and complex, ideas into simple and easily understood concepts?

Like how does Google prioritise all the investment opportunities it is confronted with? Thousands of very clever people all encouraged to innovate. Lots of ideas.

But you’d need a department just to vet them. And bureaucracy is not a good thing, right? A stifler of innovation (btw, another big idea)…

So how do you rank these ideas? And how do you harness the energy and excitement that goes into developing them?

Start by having a very simple purpose as a company. Information is everywhere and people need it and use it, anywhere. Doing good, not evil. Make the world a better place. (https://www.google.com.au/about/company/philosophy/). Ok. Simple.

So to achieve those goals, do big things. No point in investing time in things that aren’t going to have a real impact on achieving the purpose.

So how prioritise all those opportunities?

Start by acknowledging money isn’t the issue in Google’s case.

Then recognise that to have an impact on the world you need to reach the world, or a big part of it. Not Connecticut, not New South Wales, not Marahastra. A big part of the world.

Then define a simple rule.

1 billion users or bust.

Have an idea that 1 billion people will use, or don’t bother.

A big idea radically simplified.

A simple purpose, a simple measure, and game changing concept.

Because it makes decision making easier. And it means people think of big stuff, not small stuff. A game that slices fruit, or chases augmented funny objects, is not a bad idea. It can be large and very successful. But if your objective is to make the world a better place, it just won’t cut it,

Now, Patrick acknowledges that Google is a unique place.

But need it be?

Disrupting yourself with big ideas consistent with your purpose when things are going well is actually everyone’s job. I’ve done it professionally including very recently 🙂 ! And it’s the right thing to think about and do.

Its common sense, right?

But you know what they say about common sense…

Don’t run away from a crisis – well done Samsung!

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I have to admit I am a bit of a tech geek.

I love trying different new technology and gadgets. I’m always awaiting that lightening-strike-moment when the new technology moves the earth beneath my feet. You know, like when Apple removes the earplug socket..NOT.

But I do love the innovation and the way awesome design constantly refines and improves the experience, and therefore usefulness, and therefore productivity of the tools.

For example, I’m a great fan of the job Microsoft has done with the Surface range. And the cameras on most smartphones nowadays are brilliant. I love Snapchatting marked-up pictures with my family and a few close trusted friends. I zoom around in the world of VR. I love Apple TV and Sonos. And I use z-wave for my home automation which I program myself. Turn those lights off family!! Yes, a geek indeed.

However it’s fair to say that our smartphones are our most important day-to-day device. And I tried going to an iPhone recently but end up switching back to my Samsung Galaxy Note 5 as my favourite and most useful device. I love the s-pen and the flexibility of the device.

So when the Note 7 came out, I was one of the first to get one. No queue for me. Day 1 delivery to “Ebbeck TIG Consulting” headquarters!

What an amazing device. Sleek, fast, integrated. Smooth. Brilliant design. I love it. Best device I’ve ever used. and the s-pen even more useful (please note: I have no commercial or other relationship with Samsung!!).

But they had the infamous problem with some of the batteries. Yep, a problem. Like many product issues, a tiny proportion of devices reported as having a problem but a problem nonetheless. Safety of people must come first.

Integrity is an interesting concept.

When you face a crisis, do you deny it? Do you argue it’s not really such a big issue? Do you brush it under the carpet? Do you fix things one by one after the event?

Many companies handle things differently.

I have to admit I was impressed by Samsung’s approach.

They took action fast. They were ahead of the authorities and were proactive. Replacement temporary devices and new ones available within a couple of weeks.

I picked up my replacement Note 7 on Thursday. It has the nice little Google-approved green battery icon to prove it.

It’s easy to be critical when problems occur.

Is anyone happy that their new shiny Note 7 had to be replaced? No – I’m not – pain in the back side. Is Samsung happy? I suspect NOT! Are Samsung’s shareholders impressed? Certainly not! Is Apple happy? Probably not as they’ve had their own share of issues over the years. Were the temporary devices as good as the Note 7? Of course not.

Whilst the problems as a result of the Note 7 battery issues will impact Samsung for sometime to come, I’m impressed with the speed and integrity with which they seem to have acted.

Well done Samsung.

And I’m still loving my Note 7! Best device I’ve ever used!

Diversity in the boardroom – but not what you think

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I read an interesting survey today which highlighted an important issue.

The article is a report on how security and technology are the top of the agenda in Boardrooms. (http://www.afr.com/technology/enterprise-it/security-top-of-the-agenda-as-boards-turn-their-focus-to-technology-20160821-gqxy9g)

There is a great deal of focus on diversity in the boardroom. It’s a serious effort to get more women onto Boards and better represent the broader population and take advantage of the great talent available.

All good.

However the article I read indicated that, whilst diversity in the Boardroom is certainly needed, it may be an additional perspective of diversity that needs to be considered.

The world is changing fast. Very fast.

And whilst there are certainly demographic and social issues contributing to the change, technology is at its core.

I am often concerned about the lack of knowledge in the business community about important issues such as security, connectivity, real time data and analytics, virtual reality, gamification, and cloud platforms.

Ok, this may seem a weird thing to say, but how many members of boards can you see wearing a VR headset? Or using gameing approaches to better understand technology and therefore social and work trends?

It’s not weird. It’s actually important.

The world is changing. And it’s changing fast.

I wonder whether the common view on diversity needs to be broadened and become, well, more diverse?

Age, background, gender, experience in transformation/disruption/innovation, and successes and failures thereby arising are all diversity criteria. And as clever as lawyer and bankers are, are they really diverse in their thinking and experience?

The pace of change isn’t going to alter. And the boardroom needs people with the right skills to keep up.

Working is changing..

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The world we live in today is changing, and changing fast.

Some call this the next industrial revolution.

Whatever it is, this revolution is driven by the disruptive and incessant impact of technology.
It’s impacting each of us, businesses, economies, and society overall.

Facebook, Twitter, Uber, Ebay, Menulog, Fitbit….the list is endless.
Next week in Australia we have a virtual census.
(What a shame we couldn’t have virtual elections and Pokemon Go a few politicians along the way! 🙂 )

And the change is relentless.
And it’s fast.

What used to take years, now happens in months and weeks.
Airbnb will undoubtedly be disrupted by a faster and more nimble competitor! And soon.

Let’s be very clear – it is TECHNOLOGY that has driven this change.
Moore’s Law, the principle that computing power doubles every two years, has been operating consistently now for almost 50 years.
That is an exponential rate of change over a long period of time.

And its changing everything.

New technologies such as seriously powerful mobile devices, sensors on and in us, 3D printing, cognitive computing, AI, the internet of things, and cloud computing platforms have created a global ubiquitous environment enabling rapid change.

And in organisations, technology is no longer a single function; it is an integral part of every organisation and is generally the heart and lungs.

This facilitates rapid business models change.

Every competitive advantage is temporary – they always have been, actually!
But temporary now means weeks and months, not years.

Disrupting organisations are getting disrupted themselves!
AirBnb and Uber with no hotels and cars will be disrupted by brasher and bolder small companies.

Why?

Because barriers to entry are low and lowering.
And capital is readily available. Lets face it, it’s attractive to put money into something where valuations include multiples of 5000x ! (don’t ask me to explain that logic!)

But there’s more going on than just technology forcing change.

DEMOGRAPHICS

Globally, millennials now make up more than half the workforce according to Deloitte.
And they come with their own specific focus on a rewarding, purposeful work life, and the usual demand for fast and consistent career progression.

But at the same time, medical advances and superannuation/pension fund deficiencies mean people are working longer – in to their 70’s and beyond.

This creates not just new models for mentoring and skill transfer, but an even broader array of workers creating cross-generational work-forces, and more diversity challenges. It’s not just about gender any more.

And the need to focus on diversity creates another dynamic – sometimes over 4 generations in the one workplace with different values, beliefs, and styles.

And that’s before we shrink the world with lowered barriers between countries and cultures. This has further increased complex integration in the workplace.

Large shifting demographics changing the workplace.

And then there is also the SOCIAL change underway.

The career plan, only a generation back, was that a person would work for the same company for the whole of their working life – it no longer holds true, of course.

This creates two disruptive situations.

Firstly, a shorter period of time working for a company means challenges in getting people to productivity sooner, AND having them remain ambassadors of the business when they leave which they will do!
Secondly, an increasing contingent workforce forces the need to integrate those freelance workforce into multiple organisations. Sometimes at the same time.

Today the contingent workforce is almost a third of the total.
In 20 years it could be closer to two thirds.

So we have some real drivers of change:
– Technology driving exponential disruption and innovation
– Demographics creating increased complexity, and
– Social changes driving structural challenges and opportunities.

So here are my views on a few of the interesting workplace trends that come from these drivers of change.

The world is shifting to a freelance employment model.
Someone recently described it as the “gig” economy

There’s good reason for this.
The barriers to entry to become self-employed have dropped.
The tools have become ubiquitous and low cost:

  • Ultra-thin laptops and tablets
  • Powerful and integrated mobile technologies
  • Cloud based software and storage
  • and ubiquitous and VERY, VERY fast connectivity.

These have empowered people to work anywhere and at any time.

And many people don’t want to work in the old way any more!

Let’s face it. A very large portion of the world’s organisations are not really great places to work. They’re not really employers of choice.
And, of course, they can’t, in and of themselves, satisfy worker’s life requirements.

This applies to white collar workers in particular who can now work from almost anywhere. Think about:

  • Designers
  • Artists
  • Photographers
  • Accountants
  • Consultants
  • Bloggers
  • App developers
  • Drivers
  • Teachers
  • Scientists

As I said earlier, global studies indicate 1/3rd of developed country work forces are now freelance or contingent workers, and there is an expectation this will increase to more than 60% in the next decade or two

And since, increased connectivity, personal computing, real time language translators, advanced virtual reality, gamification and cloud platforms all make global barriers lower, contingent workers can operate in a global market from anywhere there is decent connectivity

I recently joined the board of an ASX listed company called Nvoi.
Nvoi is a cloud platform designed to take advantage of this massively growing contingent marketplace.
There are challenges in the market.
Employers of contingent labour don’t control the workforce the way they once did, so having a relationship with a contingent worker who has a great deal of your IP is actually very important.
And contingent workers can be lonely, and ill-prepared for the challenges of running a business.
Nvoi’s platform is designed to address these issues.
It brings employers and talent together in a mutually beneficial marketplace.

Educators need to also play a part in this model.

People coming out of school and universities, now more than ever, need to be cross skilled in their core technical area, plus adept at running a small business because that’s precisely what contingent workers are – small businesses.

And larger organisations need to play a part, as well, in recognising the looming issues of their less-than-permanent future workforce.

The growth of contingent workers also has other implications.

Contingent workers and freelancers can become very lonely and emotionally disconnected.
This is not a minor issue
It is potentially a socio-economic and cultural issue.
Humans are social creatures by their nature – let’s face it society is about being social, notwithstanding some of the behaviour we see on a Saturday night.

There is a therefore a growing trend to develop co-working spaces to partially address this issue.
Co-working spaces provide an innovative eco-systems for collaboration, networking and socialising.
These spaces are akin to incubation hubs for start-ups such as Stone & Chalk and its Fintech hub in Sydney.
These are shared and useful spaces, with a fun and vibrant environment, facilitating innovation and creativity and networking. They also drive synergies and cross-industry collaboration.

Further, Professional associations such as CPA Australia (of which I am a Director), and the AICD and AIM make their offices available for their members to use as drop-in space, collaboration space, networking space, and somewhere to belong.
They are more than offices.
They are Social space. I used one myself today!

This concept of co-working space is very much akin to the Uber, Airbnb, and Lyft sharing model.

And its an opportunity for all organisations.

For example, education institutions can become more than organisations with a large theoretical alumni and student base. They could become shared workspaces for the contingent workers of the future who are also their alumni. Or for freelancers who share interests in university research programmes or other activities being undertaken at the institution.

The whole concept of a sharing economy, with contingent workers, and less obvious organisational boundaries also raises other interesting concepts.

The sharing economy puts greater power in the hands of the contingent worker.
However, it also highlights the importance of teams and networks of teams.

In contrast to the industrial-era “process” approach where technology, low cost labour and off-shoring have disputed processes, organisations need to operate differently.

In my working life I have seen, old style payroll offices, tea ladies, ledger books, telex machines, land lines and Australian car manufacturing go!
And I’ve seen fax machines and DVD players and standalone mobile phones come and go!

Even the NATIONAL BROADBAND NETWORK in Australia was designed only a few years back, with a policy prefaced on some technologies that have already been superceded.

Scary isn’t it!

As people come together more and more to tackle projects, some from within the organisation, some from the supply chain, some from the freelancer community, and even some from the virtual world, there are challenges to making things work effectively and fast.

This is particularly important as teams can then disband rapidly to move to new assignments.

There are obvious issues here:

  • Traditional education hasn’t really trained people to operate this way
  • A large portion of the workforce is not skilled to think this way – it’s a demographic fact
  • And organisations aren’t generally adept at working this way

Many newer ones are, but larger organisations, with large bureaucracies (yes, they still exist) are NOT great in this environment.

And in addition, programs for leadership development, performance management, learning, and career progression need to change to reflect this paradigm shift.

Indeed, this new paradigm demands, what I call, the AMBASSADOR approach.

Employees are merely an important subset of an organisation’s Ambassadors.

Where we have more project-based work, flexible networks of teams, a tendency for people to move organisations more frequently, and an increasing contingent workforce, THEN we confront serious organisation issues that traditional approaches don’t naturally address.

If an organisation is going to implement new work styles – and my contention is that they generally will not have a choice – they cannot assume a traditional approach to a range of normal business functions will work.

  • Recruiting staff can’t take a long time.
  • Working with contingent workers can’t be an arm’s length outsource approach (hence Nvoi).
  • On boarding programs can’t be slow and laborious and Induction processes need to be effective, team based and fast.
  • Organisation culture needs to be very clear, and very simple, and very social, and not something that needs to be discovered over long periods of time

That’s a difficult concept to comprehend

But in this new world the issue is TIME TO PRODUCTIVITY.

Project-based work is time bound by its very nature, therefore it’s critical that organisations focus on their capability to get people productive fast.
Really fast!

In this real-time rapidly evolving world, even induction needs to be fast.

Competitive advantage is no more than temporary, ever!
Uber and Airbnb are actually just as easy to disrupt, arguably easier, than the large and long term business models they disrupted where at least there was bricks and mortar familiarity and loyalty.

And the network and ecosystem are core to the success of the change to shorter productivity cycles.

Organisations will be attractive to people because of their reputation to get great things done.

My view is that every organisation needs to focus on its reputation – deeply and very seriously. You can’t advertise your way around a poor organisational reputation or employer brand.

Having a GREAT reputation is critical. Not just because its good for the brand, and good for morale, and for the proven principle that an engaged employee leads to a satisfied customer, which delivers great financial outcomes.
But more importantly, organisations that have a great reputation to fast track productivity will have a competitive advantage.

Hence the term Ambassador.
The goal needs to be to have every employee, past, present, and even future, as an ambassador of the organisation.

There are plenty of ways to build ambassadors.

  • Focus on people managers as the core
  • Insist upon every single employee deserving, and expecting, a monthly 1:1 chat with their direct manager discussing them as a person, not work! And asking 3 simple questions – How are you? How are we? And what can I do to help you realise your potential?
  • Re-engaging with the alumni creating a Boomerang-effect to aggressively recruit people in to the organisation
  • Re-juvinate induction to focus on creating the best on-boarding experience in the market as well as fast taking time to real productivity!
  • Constantly re-induct people into the company’s direction and strategy to better engage with people already in the company

The Ambassador thinking is critical.

The world of work is changing rapidly, and organisations need to adapt to attract and retain the skills of a growing number of people interested in freelancing, and an existing workforce needing to operate in a very different way.

Tough economic conditions certainly drive change – innovation thrives in economic down turns and having a burning platform certainly focuses the attention!

But people are demanding more flexibility from their work models as well
They seek the opportunity to be more creative and innovative, with an improved work-life balance, and an entrepreneurial, flexible, self-employed future.

And this is not just for commercial organisations. This changed model will rapidly impact the large public sector and that will be a management challenge to be reckoned with!

So, we have some real drivers of change:

  • Incessant technology advancements driving speed and disruption
  • Demographic shifts creating a broad spread of workers and needs,
  •  And social change as a result

This is causing new ways of work, a large and growing contingent workforce, and new network based work styles.

And this requires a focus on time to productivity like never before, a need to think and operate beyond traditional organisation boundaries, with an enduring focus on people as Ambassadors .

This environment calls for something else!
A new breed of transformational leader.
Someone who is fundamentally competent
Who expects less of other people’s leadership and more of their own leadership skills.
Who understands that reputation is everything.
And that life is tough and not always fair.
And who is prepared to innovate and test boundaries at a speed not seen before.

What an awesome time to be alive in the professional world!