Employer training is the key to competitiveness – Open Forum

A quick shout out the team at Open Forum for posting up my latest musings on the connection between skills development and long term competitiveness. Skills (or more specficailly, a lack of skills) is quickly emerging as a risk factor for many businesses in terms of impacting their long term plans. It is something covered in detail in the Evolution of Skills report I worked on for TAFE NSW, and a topic that I hope to give some voice to in the emerging debate regarding Australia’s future resilience.

The link between saving the planet and and successful business transformation – recent articles

One of the topics I spent a lot of time looking into in 2019 was the common attributes of organisations who execute successful change programs. One factor that came through as being critical to the success of these programs was having buy-in from staff.

In parallel, the past few years have seen a growth in interest in measuring employee engagement within organisations. This has been great news for companies such as Qualtrics and local hero Culture Amp, who provide tools to measure and influence staff engagement and organisational culture. It’s also been interesting to witness the increased interest in purpose within many organisations. I’ve spent quite a few hours listening to executives talk about the importance of giving staff a sense that what they are doing is for more than just shareholder returns.

In this article for CMO, and again in this special report for The Australiian, I had the chance to talk to a number of business leaders about the importance of sustainability to their brand. But the discussions also uncovered another lesson that might be useful for many organisations – that of how having a strong purpose around sustainability can make a workforce more resillient to change. The idea is that people are more willing to accept and even embrace radical change when they can see that the outcome will be of significant benefit to their organisation in terms of its ability to meet its purpose.

Instilling a sense that ‘this is for the greater good’ is a critical element in succesful transformation programs. And that desire to push forward with chance can clearly be enhanced when the greater good is much greater than just being for the good of the organisation itself.

Does stereotypical marketing arise from a stereotypical industry? – CMO

Anyone who leaves their home on a regular basis might be aware of one of the unfortunate truths of the Australian marketing industry – that the faces we see in commercial advertising don’t really reflect the faces we might see on the train on our way to work.

There are many reasons why the people who are used to promote products look the way they do. Advertisers have only a brief window of time to capture a consumer’s attention, and are generally keen to ensure the strongest possible connection. Often that means falling back on sterotypes.

But what if those stereotypes were actually serving to limit a products exposure?

With team divesity now a critical issue in the markeing industry, in this article I took the opportunity to investigate one possible reason why stereotypes are so prevalent in Australian adverrtising – that the composition of the people creating and signing off on campaigns may be influencing the choice of faces that appear in those campaigns.

For the full article, follow this link to CMO Australia.

My new book – Innovation is for Everyone – now available

For the past two years myself and Peter Fritz AM have been hosting discussions with numerous business leaders, public servants, academics and other interested individuals to open a window into Australia’s innovation system. We are now pleased to announce that those discussions and their findings are available in the form of our latest book Innovation is for Everyone.

The book is designed to provide an approachable primer on Australia’s innovation system and the problems it has faced. It examines why Australia lags behind many other countries when it comes to turning ideas into products and services, and proposes ideas as to how to redress this situation.

Over the course of this year I’ll be presenting many of the ideas from Innovation is for Everyone in this blog. But in the meantime you are also welcome to buy it by clicking this link.

Your org chart needs a rethink – Workflow

Pic credit – David Travis @dtravisphd

The tools that organisations use to achieve their goals are changing rapidly.
And it seems few businesses are satisfied with the speed at which they can make decisions. At the same time, many business functions find themselves needing skills that they would have barely thought about a decade or two ago, such as the need for technology skills in marketing, or big data analytics in finance.

Which begs the question – if the tools and skills required to run a business have changed significantly, then does the organisational structure need to change also? A quick look at many org charts today would show little difference from how the organisation might have looked in 1970.

This was the question I explored in my first contribution to Workflow, a new business management site published by ServiceNow. When speaking with organisations – and particularly those that are undergoing some form of transformation to improve their responsiveness – I constantly hear about the need to tear down silos and improve collaboration. Could it be their org structure is actually working against them? You can read the full story by clicking here.

The story includes an examination of some organisations that are exploring the leading edge of structural readjustment through self-experimentation, such as Zappos and REA Group. I’d also like to offer a big ‘thank you’ to REA Group’s chief inventor Nigel Dalton for sharing his insights into 100 years of management theory.

The future of work, and why its better to be wanted than needed

When it comes to the future of work, the key question that everyone wants the answer to is whether their work has a future.

Automation promises/threatens to make many roles that exist today unnecessary, leading to somewhat scary outcomes for a number of careers.

But perhaps there is a different way to think about the future of work – one that is based more on human preferences and behaviours rather than technical possibilities. And it might just help us find where the new opportunities will be, or at least evolve what we are currently doing into something that is a little more future-proof.

Let me start by first placing some definitions around two important words – ‘want’ and ‘need’.

Let’s say for example that I ‘want’ to go to London. In order to get to London, there are certain things I ‘need’. For starters, I ‘need’ a method of transportation. I also ‘need’ a ticket, a passport, and potentially a bunch of other things – just so I can get what I ‘want’.

Now consider what I would have ‘needed’ to get to London a couple of decades ago. Firstly, I needed a paper ticket. To get one of those, I needed a travel agent.

Thanks to the internet, all I ‘need’ now is few minutes online. The time and effort to get from what I desire to what I want has been compressed by the removal of that step. I still need a passport (for now) and a mode of transportation (at least until someone invents the Star Trek transporter). But any airline that still only accepted paper tickets issued through travel agents would not be long for this earth.

This pattern is repeating itself over and over again. Decades ago, if I ‘wanted’ a book, I ‘needed’ to go to a bookstore. I didn’t want a bookstore though, I wanted a book – cue the demise of many booksellers. If I ‘wanted’ to watch a movie at home, I ‘needed’ to rent or buy it from a store. I no longer need to do that. Cue the demise of the video rental industry. And so on.

That same logic is putting pressure on many other professions. If I ‘wanted’ investment advice I might have ‘needed’ to speak to an investment advisor. Now AI-based robo-advisors can play that role.

What this means for each of us is that even if we are currently essential to helping a person get what they want, there is probably someone, somewhere, working on a solution which will help that person get what they want without us.

And if they can do so at cheaply enough, you’re looking at a limited professional lifespan. Bye bye to the ticket issuing function of travel agents. Bye bye to investment advisors, accountants, lawyers, etc. etc. If we are not providing the actual ‘thing’ that the person wants – – advice, business compliance, legal advice – but simply providing them with something they need to help them get it – we could be in trouble.

That doesn’t of course mean that all bookstores have died. There are instance where I might ‘want’ to go wandering through a bookstore, perhaps simply for the pleasure of it, or for the serendipitous discovery that can take place. I might ‘want’ to talk to a travel agent about where to visit in London, rather than simply turning up. I might also ‘want’ to speak to an investment advisor because I value their specific experience, or feel more comfortable speaking to a person (at least for now).

Also, there are many tasks that are needed that may prove too difficult or expensive to eliminate – at least in the short term. Getting to London quickly without an aircraft is unlikely to happen in my lifetime, for instance. Unless perhaps I am happy to ‘go there’ in a virtual reality experience without even leaving my home …

To stay relevant in the future of work, you need to really think about whether you are giving your customers what they want, or just what they need. If you are in fact a ‘necessary evil’ when it comes to why your customers are spending money with you, there is a good chance you won’t be necessary forever.

But if you can give a customer something they really want, they might keep you around a little longer.

How virtual humans could transform the brand experience – CMO Australia

Marketers often talk about brands having a ‘personality’ – effectively a collection of traits and attributes which are specific and potentially unique to the brand. Now the technologies of artificial intelligence and computer animation technologies are coming together to enable that personality to be centralised into a virtual persona – complete with its own face and voice.

There is great potential that in the near future we will no longer look at websites or interact with contact centres, but interact instead with virtual humans as naturally as we might interact with real people. That virtual person will have a record of all of your interactions, and knowledge of all of the offers and services its organisation can provide. Furthermore, that virtual person might also be a specific instance for you – tuned to your age, ethnicity, or any other known attribute that might serve to make it more useful to you.

It is an idea that has been promised for some time, but in this article for CMO.com.au I explore how the necessary components are now falling into place to make this idea a reality.

Tech to the future: Reselling next-gen technology – CRN

Tech companies spend millions of dollars inventing and developing new technologies, but it’s all for nought if no one buys it. Crossing that chasm often involves a creating professional sales team – which can be an expensive proposition. So why not hire someone else’s?

Hence the global technology reseller  modelwas born. But resellers have a tendency to prefer selling those products which are easy to shift, with a sizeable and eager market (and one that is also willing to pay a decent margin). Much easier to sell something that people already want, than to convince them to buy something they only recently learned exists.

But for those resellers willing to make the leap into selling new and untested technology, the spoils can be great. There is the chance to get in early and build a market position long before a tech is commoditised. And of course there is all the learning that can be gathered along the way, and used to create additional value propositions.

In this feature article for CRN I was able to delve into the thinking of a number of Australian resellers and services companies and find out why it is that some companies are willing to take the plunge into the unknown, and how they avoid losing their shirts in the process.


Effective machine learning starts with considered human thinking – IAPA

Once technology is released into the world, it can be incredibly difficult to control. I suspect if you asked Tim Burners-Lee whether he is happy that his invention has become the most effective tool for the distribution of pornography ever invented, he’ll tell you that he isn’t. The Law of Unintended Consequences tells us it is impossible to foresee the full ramifications of any new technology from the point of its inception, but in an era where companies (and particularly startups) push to get new ideas out the door and into the hands of custoemrs as quickly as possible, the chance for measured reflection is limited.

The same of course is true with AI and data analytics moire generally. In my latest post ahead of next weeks IAPA Advancing Analytics conference I asked the speakers about the potential for negative consquences, and whether sufficient thought has gone into the ethical considerations of what AI might enable.

As healthcare data scientist Halim Abbas says: “We have built something, and it is turning out to be a very powerful driver in society, and we are not really sure how to best use it. It is like we have built a hot air balloon, and now we are in the air, asking how do we steer.”

Effective data outcomes require diverse human inputs – IAPA

Data is increasingly being used to make decisions that impact our everyday lives. But who is actually making the decisions, and are they truly representative of the people whose lives they are affecting?

In my latest post for the IAPA Advancing Analytics conference taking place in Melbourne on October 18 I had the opportunity to ask the speakers about the importance of diversity in data projects. One of the great dangers is that the people construcing the tools and programs fail to understand how they might impact specific groups in the community – especially those unintended consequences that mono-cultures design teams can fail to identify.