Appearing in In The Black magazine, December 2019
Culture Fix: How To Create a Great Place to Work
By Collin Ellis
A positive and productive culture is essential for business health but Ellis, drawing on extensive consultancy experience, sees very few leaders who are happy with their company’s cultural framework. He sets out to turn theory into practical steps, and by and large he provides a good roadmap of how to get from here to there.
He unpacks the six ‘pillars’ of culture – personality and communication, vision, values, behaviour, collaboration and innovation – and finishes each section with a list of actions. Complexity is the enemy of a healthy culture, so avoid lengthy mission statements and heavy-going training courses. The cultural parameters should be written down for everyone to see; Ellis cites the ‘culture deck’ of Netflix as a good example. Transparency is also critical: a leader, whether a CEO or team supervisor, must be able to explain the reasons for decisions. Solid achievement should be recognised but there should also be room for innovative experiments.
Ellis deftly examines how leaders can guide and develop the cultural process. He provides case studies of companies who have done it well, with Atlassian being a recurring example. There are no one-size solutions but this book offers plenty of useful tips in a critical field.
The Prosperity Paradox
By Clayton Christensen, Efosa Ojomo and Karen Dillon
Christensen is a heavy hitter in business thinking, and his books on innovation and disruption are required reading. However, his original interest was in development economics, stemming from his time in South Korea when the country was impoverished. The process of how South Korea became an economic powerhouse has long fascinated him, especially when many countries around the world have remained poor despite trillions of dollars in aid and a wealth of good intentions.
In The Prosperity Paradox Christensen and his co-authors apply the theory of innovation to the issue, and conclude that the identification of unmet consumer needs, involving products that do not even exist in that market yet, is the key. They look at dozens of examples: mobile phones in Africa, microwave ovens in China, even noodles in Nigeria. The social impacts are enormous.
Aid donors and domestic policymakers should focus on this area. Stable institutions corruption and reduced corruption are important but it is innovation that drives prosperity. Knowing how to use technology to lower costs is necessary but a culture of innovation can become self-sustaining.
This is a fascinating book, with lessons for business readers on how wealth is created through imaginative thinking and consistent vision.
Data Driven Business Transformation: How Business Can Disrupt, Innovate and Stay Ahead of the Competition
By Caroline Carruthers and Peter Jackson
Discussions on integrating data into business operations often bog down in technical jargon or somehow fail to reach the point of saying how you actually do it. Carruthers and Jackson, specialists in this field, avoid the techno-babble to provide a step-by-step guide, with flow diagrams and diagnostic tests to illustrate their points.
Their starting point is to assess what information is already held and determine what more is needed. The next step is to bring it into a common digital architecture. They are wary about handing too much of authority over to the IT specialists, who might not always understand the business impact. In fact, transformation has to be led from the top, and everyone in the organisation has to be able to understand the benefits. This will take a major investment of time and resources but it is essential for both getting transformation going and then embedding it as a process. The authors also offer good advice on how to develop relevant metrics and then fold the results into policy, strategy and governance.
It adds up to a useful package for any organisation which sees digitisation as the next step in development and needs to know how to proceed.
An interview for a new job can be a traumatic experience but it does not have to be, according to specialists from recruitment firm Michael Page. In a useful post they look at the most common interview questions, explaining why they are asked and what sort of response is best. Answers should be supported with examples but they must be succinct and relevant. Interviewers are often looking for self-awareness as well as ‘cultural fit’, which might be demonstrated by citing non-work interests. The overall message of the article is that some preparation, research and proof can go a long way.
KPMG’s The Future of Digital Banking report, developed in collaboration with the Commonwealth Bank, looks at how the banking sector will operate in 2030, drawing on a survey of over 1,000 customers. The report notes that customers will demand technology-enabled ‘autonomous experiences’, with personalised options, a trusted interface, and a financial ‘super-app’. They will be increasingly savvy about what is possible and will be willing to switch finance providers if they see a better offer. This will lead to intense battles between incumbents and challengers, with established firms emphasising their legacy and experience while new players offer dynamism and choice.
Download the report from:
Mental health support
Beyond Blue, the respected organisation which aims to improve Australians’ pyschological wellbeing, has released an online publication, Supporting Small Business Owners, to provide advisers and accountants with guidance on how to assist their clients. The free publication includes advice on recognising the symptoms of deteriorating mental health and wellbeing, how to speak with someone you are concerned about, and how to contact professional help.
The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell, has applauded the release of the guide, noting that it provides advisers with the tools they need to support their clients, without formal training in counselling.
As the former CEO of five businesses, Margaret Heffernan is very familiar with the thought patterns that lead organisations and managers astray, and she examines them in an enlightening TED Talk. She believes that an unconsidered drive for efficiency can create systems which are unable to deal with unforeseen events, and that sacrificing some efficiency for greater robustness can make sense. She also notes that there has been a decline in social relationships in the workplace in the past decade due to ‘busy-ness’, depriving organisations and the people within them of essential support mechanisms and resilience in times of crisis.
Blockchain going global?
Blockchain technology is slowly making its way into an array of business niches, and the World Trade Organization believes that it might eventually find a place in global trade. A WTO study, Can Blockchain Revolutionize International Trade?, looks at some of the possibilities. It opens opportunities for small-scale producers and companies, and offers the potential for better protection of intellectual property rights. Blockchain could also reduce trade costs and enhance transparency. The report recognises that there are many challenges that must be addressed before the technology can have a significant impact but it aims to encourage thinking in the area.