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Diversity Transformation

The technology sector loves to latch onto buzz words, with the current flavour of the month being D__________ T____________. You know what I mean: it is the way we are describing the change and innovation that all industries need to have top of their agenda. It’s a super important topic for all of us, but I just can’t bring myself to latch onto the buzz word.  

Microsoft Envision 2017 - Digital Transformation, Business Insights

After spending my week with business leaders from all over the world at Microsoft Envision, I really want to share what I heard. I’ve come away feeling very privileged to work in a sector playing a massive role in the future for our kids and planet. This article touches on lessons from businesses going through these dramatic changes, and the need for increasing levels of diversity to achieve the best outcomes in business. With this, I was simply so impressed with the many diversities in leadership who shared their insight, so it can’t go unsaid!

So, what were the lessons about business transformation?

  • Be learners, your leaders need to spend time discovering what’s happening out there. Don’t just learn from your people and your industry, cast a wide net
  • Find a pattern, once is an anomaly, twice could be coincidence, three times and you might have a pattern to exploit
  • See it early, get involved, often before you know how to monetise, be open to take risk and learn
  • Have a big dream, but start small, move fast on something that extends on your strengths
  • Prototype and test with customers early
  • It’s not just about smart digital change, you must look hard to see where your business model can or needs to change
  • Data is an excellent place to start, this provides the insight for change, then the measurement to demonstrate benefit
  • Get your finance folk involved in the conversation early, you need their support and funding
  • Data about your product could become as valuable, or more valuable than the product
  • Don’t just digitise… change it, make it simpler and better, it’s all about new compelling customer experiences

Beth Comstock, Vice Chair at GE shared their progress on change and what this means. The role of leaders during this change is vital. For one, ignore the organisation chart as we don’t work this way anymore. Organise around the information and make sure it changes the business and people fast enough. Empower people - they can’t wait for permission - and forget this addiction to being right and chasing perfection. Focus on outcomes, set the vision and let people work it out, aligned minds and machines creating magic together. Get used to ambiguity. Turn managers to coaches, help them through, but don’t tell your people what to do. Change them from know-it-all to learn-it-all! In particular I loved the GE feedback system that focused on ‘consider’ and ‘continue’ as the key tenets for feedback.

I had the pleasure of hearing the former First Lady of the United States of America, Michelle Obama, share her insight into leadership and diversity. In terms of leadership her guidance was that empathy is critical and “it’s just like being the parents of teenagers”, you need to know how to filter your communication and ensure you at least act like a parent, no matter how your teenagers are behaving! You also need to be very clear on your purpose, be 100% authentic and centre your effort on your values.

From a diversity stand point she suggested you need diversity involved in the conversation to make the change. Going on to say that a whole bunch of old white men talking about how they will hire more woman or millennials isn’t going to cut it. She also made it very clear that businesses need to work on their unconscious bias and truly embrace diversity. If the on-the-floor experience is anything other than fully inclusive, you will simply fail. 

Michelle also demonstrated how much she learnt as a diplomat, with the comment that “America is great, it was always great, and will continue to be great in the future”. Going on to say political leaders need to be authentic and demonstrate values that are 100% inclusive - nuf said!

We have our own event focused on Executives who want to know how other leaders undertook this change and how technology could revolutionise businesses. Register here for this year’s Intergen Convergence in Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch.

If you would like watch the session hosted by Chris Capossela (Microsoft CMO) with Beth Comstock, it’s available here.

Posted by: Steve Scarbrough, General Manager Business Applications | 29 September 2017

Tags: Digital Transformation, Intergen Convergence, Envision

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