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Staying Relevant with your Business

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We live in a knowledge economy, an economy where we aim to stay relevant by leveraging the the internet of things and the internet of everything to answer our every question as fast as our little, sometimes sausage-like, fingers can touch a tiny screen.

In today’s hyper-connected, digitized world there are three challenges that every business leader must face in order for his or her company to stay relevant:

1) The speed of technological advancement

2) Information overload

3) Human disposition toward change

More specifically with information accessibility is information literacy—the ability to navigate and interpretmassive amounts of information and pare it down into something not only manageable, but comprehensible and applicable for the masses.

However, it doesn’t stop there. 

The problem between the above three challenges is aligning the current systems, processes and behaviors within an organization to fit them all. Namely, you need to not only keep up with the times in terms of technological relevance but also be poised to acquire the right information you need through such technology, interpret it and disseminate it.

Welcome to the challenge of how to stay relevant.

How To Stay Relevant

The problem, of course, is this: the means by which organizations share and interpret information are outdated. In many of the companies I’ve consulted, their way of operating is based off an outdated operating model: hierarchy.

Hierarchy is a product of yesteryear. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for linear-processing and rank-and-file management (the conventional military comes to mind), but in today’s day and age where companies compete at the speed of adaptability but adapt at the speed of learning, hierarchy poses another, albeit indirect, threat: an organization’s ability and capacity—the skill and will—to adapt to change.

Companies compete at the speed of adaptability but adapt at the speed of learning. 

I say indirect because more often than not, how you see a problem typically is the problem.

It’s not so easy to attribute hierarchy to a company’s failings because chances are that company has been successful over the years. It’s been profitable, it’s navigated uncertainty, so how they’ve operated in the past must be right, right?

Wrong.

The complacency of success is a very real yet indirect threat to any organization’s relevance. Just look at Kodak, Blockbuster, Hollywood Video, even HP who were completely competent in how they operated for a very long time. However, times changed, and these companies never took the time to question whether how they operated was right.

No, hierarchy is outdated. Command and control worked in the 20th century where the goal was to become more efficient, to save cost by eliminating wasted efforts and duplicative processes. But in today’s day and age of “pivoting” (a term as annoying as that mosquito in your ear) and the IoT/IoE, speed is the name of the game, and one thing hierarchy is not known for is a fast “read and react” time.

So, the question becomes, what is your organization doing to adapt to the times? What is your organization doing to align the growing trend of technology and the relevant information it affords with the current behaviors in your organization that determine how work gets accomplished?

Here’s an example of what I mean.

The first company I consulted for was a Fortune 500 company in Silicon Valley. They were in the tech space and were facing an industry shift of having to move from hard drives to the cloud and they needed to figure out how they were going to stay relevant amidst this inevitable change (and change is inevitable, which is why the complacency of success kills).

Anyway, the challenge they faced was the same challenge that every other company has faced that I’ve consulted for since: relying upon the behaviors of yesterday to carry you through tomorrow.

By behaviors I’m referring to how tasks get identified, assigned, executed, and adapted; the frequency at which groups and teams assemble and how they assemble; the cadence of meetings and the deconfliction between multiple meeting agendas; and the metrics that define right (not gonna lie, there’s a lot more to this list).

If, for instance, there are unclear job descriptions, ambiguous roles, unclear responsibilities or simply non-existent expectations, then “winning” isn’t likely to happen anytime soon. What is likely to occur is a lot of tail-chasing and a lot of turf wars because, without clearly defined boundaries, people will define their own.

If how your model for success today is how successful you were yesterday then congratulations, you’re one step closer to irrelevance.

If how your model for success today is how successful you were yesterday then congratulations, you’re… 

If you’re asking the same questions as yesterday or—and equally non-impactful—not questioning the status quo, you’re on a losing path.

And I don’t care what anybody says. Losing sucks.

To “win” in today’s day and age requires the self-awareness to recognize your blind spots, the social awareness to recognize and interpret how you mesh with others, and the situational awareness to align these two “awarenesses” into a context greater than yourself such as the organization’s mission, and the only way to weaponize yourself in these regards, is through curiosity.

Nothing begins without a question. Questions incite greater awareness because they cause the mind to wander, to explore, and to (potentially) discover something anew. Without curiosity, there would be no breakthrough ideas, no new products or services, and no mobile banking (that’s a joke because I consider mobile banking to be one of the most ingenious and convenient apps on my smartphone).

Anyway, back to behaviors.

The “behaviors” that define how work is achieved are based upon one thing and one thing only: clarity.

Clarity in purpose.

Clarity in value.

Clarity in roles, responsibilities and expectations.

Clarity in time, resources and requirements available.

All the above leads to clarity in execution and without execution, you’re dead in the water. Period.

Without execution, you’re dead in the water. Period. 

So, if you want to leverage curiosity and find clarity amidst the ever-changing chaotic landscape of business amidst technology and information overload, start by defining what winning looks like.

Prior to every meeting, any discussion and any project, for example, clarify what success will be.

If you’re an organizational leader, clarify what winning looks like for the organization as a whole and then share this definition with each functional leader so they have not only clear direction but a definition to work with that will inform how and what they execute.

A sales department will likely have different objectives than marketing or HR, for example, which is why it’s so critical for the organizational leader to take the time to clarify his or her vision for 1) what success looks like and 2) what he or she values as the vehicles for success if that leader espouses to stay relevant–as a leader and as an organization.

“Become a $100 million dollar company” or “Be the number one place to work” are too ambiguous and don’t inform anybody, since $100M could be misinterpreted between the sales and product departments to be eitherprofit or revenue.

Without a clear definition, they’re likely to pursue both, which means you’ve just undercut your winning efforts by 50 percent as well as your ability to stay relevant. Not ideal.

It’s a very simple concept, but not so simply executed. But then again, if doing so were easy, then I’d be out of a job.

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About the Author

This article was produced by Chaos Advantage. Chaos Advantage is a blog dedicated to the vision of defeating complacency and eliminating the epidemic of poor leadership within organizations today. see more.

Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and Digital Innovation Strategist

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

I am talking to Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and freelance Digital Innovation Strategist. Tara was selected and recognized by TheNextWeb.com as one of the 500 most talented young people in the Dutch digital scene during the 2017 TNW edition. Tara is known for her creative, entrepreneurial spirit, which she is using to her advantage in leading the change in SMEs and corporates around the globe.

What makes you do what you do?

I tend to see life as a big, complex puzzle. Because of my curious nature, I am in constant development, looking for new angles and new approaches to business problems. Innovation through technology is exploring ideas and pushing boundaries. The most radical technological advances have not come from linear improvements within one area of expertise. Instead, they arise from the combination of seemingly disparate inventions. This is, in fact, the core of innovation. I love going beyond conventional thinking practices. Mashing up different thoughts and components, connecting the dots, and transforming that into something useful to businesses.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

I consistently chose to follow my curiosity, which has led me to where I am today. If you want to succeed in the digital industry, you need to have a growth mindset. Seen the fact that the industry is evolving in an astoundingly quick rate, it’s crucial to stay current with the trends and forces in order to spot business opportunities. I believe taking responsibility for your own learning and development is key to success.

Why did you take on the role of Digital Innovation Strategist?

The reason for this is twofold. On the one hand, I got frustrated with businesses operating in the exact same way they did a couple of decades ago. Right now we are in the midst of a technology revolution, and the latest possibilities and limitations of cutting-edge technologies are evolving every single day. This means that companies need to stay current and act lean if they want to survive. On a more personal level, I noticed that I felt the need to use my creativity and problem-solving skills to their maximum capacity. In transforming businesses at scale, I change the rules of the game. I love breaking out of traditional, old-fashioned patterns by nurturing innovative ideas. This involves design thinking, extensive collaboration and feedback, the implementation of various strategies and tactics, validated learning, and so on. I get a lot of energy from my work because it is aligned with my personal interests.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries?

Yes, I look up to Drew Boyd. He is a global leader in creativity and innovation. He taught me how to evaluate ideas in order to select the best ones to proceed with. This is crucial because otherwise,you run the risk of ideas creating the criteria for you because of various biases and unrelated factors. He also taught me a great deal on facilitation of creativity workshops.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I tend to have the characteristics of a transformational leader. People have told me that my enthusiasm and positive energy is motivating and even inspiring to them. Even though I take these comments as a huge compliment, I am not sure how I feel about referring to myself as a leader. To me, it still has a somewhat negative connotation. I guess I associate the concept with being a boss who’s throwing around commands. But if a leader means listening to others and igniting intrinsic motivation in people, then yes, I guess I’m a charismatic leader.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

Yes, one hundred percent. I believe that creativity and innovation flourish when a highly diverse group of people bounces ideas off each other. Diversity in terms of function, gender,and culture is extremely valuable, especially in the ideation phase of a project, as it can help to see more possibilities and come up with better ideas.

Do you have any advice for others?

Yes, I have some pieces of advice I’d like to share.
First of all: Develop self-awareness. You can do so by actively seeking feedback from the people around you. This will help you understand how others see you, align your intentions with your actions, and eventually enhance your communication- and leadership skills.

Surround yourself with knowledgeable and inspiring people. They might be able to support you in reaching your goals, and help you grow both personally and professionally.

Ask “why?” a couple of times. This simple and powerful method is useful for getting to the core of a problem or challenge. Make sure to often remind yourself and your team of the outcome of this exercise to have a clear sense of direction and focus.

Data is your friend. Whether it’s extensive quantitative market research or a sufficient amount of in-depth consumer interviews (or both!), your data levels all arguments. However, always be aware of biases and limitations of research.

Say “Yes, and…” instead of “No”. Don’t be an idea killer. Forget about the feasibility and budget, at least in the ideation phase. Instead, encourage your team to generate ideas without restrictions. You can compromise certain aspects later.

Prioritization is key. There is just no way you can execute all your ideas, and, quite frankly, there is no point in trying to do so. Identify the high potential ideas and start executing those first.

Encourage rapid prototyping. Don’t wait too long to experiment, launch, and iterate your product or service. Fail fast and fail often. Adopt an Agile mindset.

If you’d like to get in touch with Tara Velis, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/taravelis/

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Callum Connects

Marek Danyluk, CEO of Space Ventures

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Marek Danyluk has a talent for assessing the competencies of management teams for other businesses and pulling together exceptional teams for his own businesses!

What’s your story?
I am the CEO of a venture capital business, Space Ventures, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses. I also own and run Space Executive, a recruitment business focused on senior to executive hires across sales, marketing, finance, legal and change.

My career started as a trainee underwriter in the Lloyds market but quickly moved into recruitment where I set-up my first business in 2002. The business grew to around 100 people. I moved to Asia in 2009 as a board member of a multinational recruitment business with the mandate to help them scale their Asian entities, which helped contribute to their sale this year, in 2017.

My main talent is assessing the competencies of management teams as well as building high performing recruitment boutiques and putting together exceptional management teams for my own businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
Building the business is very much about attracting the best talent and being able to build a culture which people find invigorating and unique. It’s an exciting proposition to be able to define a culture in that regard and salespeople are a fun bunch, so when you get it right it’s tremendous.

From a VC point of view there is just so much happening. South East Asia is a melting pot of innovation so the ideas and quality of people you have exposure to, is truly phenomenal. The exposure in the VC has taken me away from a career in recruitment. Doing something completely different has given me a new level of focus.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Whilst I came here with work, both my boys were born in Singapore and to them this very much is home. That said, my father in law spent many years in the East so coming and settling here was met with a good degree of support and familiarity.


Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Possibly Hong Kong. It’s the closest I’ve been to working in London. Whilst there are massive Asian influences people will work with you on the basis you are good at what you do and work hard. I find that approach very honest and straightforward.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Always treat people well on the way up!”

Who inspires you?
I like reading about people who have excelled in business such as Jack Ma, James Kahn, Phil Knight, Sir Richard Branson, Elon Musk, all have great stories to tell and they are all inspirational. No-one has inspired me more than my parents and they are well aware as to why…

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Pretty much any technology innovation blows me away.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Whilst it is important not to have regrets I do continually wake up thinking I’m still doing my A’ Levels. So, I’d have probably tried a little harder in 6th form.

How do you unwind?
I like the odd glass of red wine and watching sport

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Japan skiing. I love skiing and Japanese food and it’s a time when I can really enjoy time with the wife and kids. I recently tried the Margaret River which was divine, although not technically Asia.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Barbarians at the Gate

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive is the fastest growing recruitment business in Singapore focused on the mid to senior market across legal, compliance, finance, sales and marketing and change and transformation. Multi-award winning with exceptional growth plans into Hong Kong and London this year, and the US, Japan and Europe by the end of 2022. We are building a truly global brand.

Space Ventures is interested in any businesses that require capital or management and financial guidance or any or all of the above. We have, to date, invested in on-line training, food and beverages, peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring as well as other tech and fintech start-ups. We are always interested in hearing about potential deals.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

Twitter handle?
@Spaceexecutive

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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