Month: December 2015
Big data is no longer a novelty for corporate organisations, nor is it the territory of those companies that are particularly pioneering. It frequently makes its way into board meetings and the C-Suite see the value of their organisation using the vast data points that technology now makes available to them. Then why is it only customers, and not employees, feeling the benefit of these advances?
Let’s take a look at how much big data has revolutionised the way that companies market their products and tailor experiences to the individual customer. Amazon has even introduced anticipatory shipping in order to ensure that one of the key differentiators of their service, speed of delivery, remains ahead of their competitors. The company collects a huge volume of data on buyers’ previous purchases, where they hover their mouse and their demography. Complex algorithms allow Amazon to predict what the customer will buy next and they then ship this product to a warehouse or transit van near the customer, ready for their click and buy. The item is subsequently delivered in a matter of minutes or hours rather than the conventional days or weeks, and Amazon maintains its competitive edge.
If organisations have this level of big data on their customers to ensure the company can consistently deliver on their USP, why are they not doing the same for their people? We know that employees are increasingly mobile and retention of the best talent is a huge focus for many organisations. By using big data about their people, organisations can contribute to the employee experience that people want.
At the Hot Spots Movement we have been struck by the benefits of using big data within organisations. When our clients look to bring about a major organisational change, they come to us to run a Jam – a global conversation lasting up to 72-hours. The Jam enables our clients to get the input they need drawing on expertise, experience and creativity from different functions and geographies from across their company. Analysing this thoughtful, extended conversation in the platform allows our clients to have access to the kind of qualitative big data they require. Challenges that have been tackled through this qualitative big data have included work/life balance, brand values and unleashing talent potential.
Our plea to the C-Suite of big corporate organisations? Use the data they have available to them within their companies to help tailor the employee experience and provide an environment they want to stay in.
My partner and I went to Rwanda a couple of weeks ago. Our mission was to trek up the country’s highest mountains to see the mountain gorillas that inhabit these bamboo forests.
People had told us that this would be a “life-changing experience” and indeed both of us came back changed. But it was not seeing the gorillas that changed us. It was being in Rwanda.
Most people will have a vague recollection of the terrible genocide that ravaged the country 20 years ago when people, often neighbours, turned on each other during 100 days of bloodletting. More than a million people died.
Yet now people appear to live in peace with each other and the country is prospering. How could this happen and what might we learn from it?
I realise it’s trite to make any comparison between the terror of a genocide and the organisational life and change that I study. Yet I feel I’ve learnt a great deal from my experiences in Rwanda and wanted to share them because it seems to me that there is a great deal to learn. Here are four insights:
– Facing up to the truth. The truth in the genocide was beyond imagination. Yet painstakingly and courageously, families and communities faced up to what had happened. First in courts and then in community groups the truth of what happened was openly discussed and confronted.
– Removing negative symbols of the past. The hatred between groups prior to the genocide was fuelled in part by cattle owning. Some groups had more cattle than others and their superiority was demonstrated through cattle ownership. After the genocide the government stopped the grazing of cattle on public ground – all cattle had to be kept in domestic yards. They also ensured that every family – however poor – owned a cow.
– Creating pride. Rwanda is spotless – not just cleaner than any African country, but cleaner than London. Every month the whole community get together and clean their space. It’s an act of enormous pride. What ever their past, this is a community capable of competence, they can keep their street clean.
– Creating a sense of the future. Almost every young person we spoke to felt positive about their future. They did not want to describe themselves through their tribal grouping but rather as ‘Rwandans’. They felt positive about the future of the country and trusted their leaders.
These are four lessons that anyone involved in corporate change knows. What the extraordinary change that Rwanda tells us is that it’s possible – by following these four lessons relentlessly – to turn around from even the darkest of moments.
Ten years ago I took my son to East Africa to stay in a Masai village. I reasoned that time with these mighty warriors would be a good anecdote to his rather cosy suburban life.
On the second day at the village, our Masai guide walked with us into the surrounding countryside. Then something surprising happened. The silence of this picturesque place was pierced by a strangely familiar sound. From his belt pocket the warrior took his ringing mobile phone. This was not something I’d expected.
Four years ago I had been asked by the female students at London Business School (LBS) to speak at their annual Women in Business Conference. I spoke for around 30 minutes on the way that large corporations could make a positive difference in the world – a topic I had explored in a recently published book. In the Q&A session that followed I expected to be asked about corporate social responsibility. Instead, I was quizzed about how I had managed to be a mother and also build a relatively successful career as a professor and business woman. This was again something I had not expected.
Yet these unexpected experiences had something profound in common. They were both ‘weak signals’ in the sense that they both alerted me to something I had not really or deeply considered. They also heralded something that would become more important in the future.
I had not realised the scale with which mobile phones were being rolled out across East Africa and indeed that they contained the possibility of transferring money. And I had not realised how deeply worried young women were about the life choices they face.
Both these weak signals had a profound impact on my thinking. The first led to the creation of my Future of Work Research Consortium – dedicated to analysing the impact of trends in technology, demography and society on corporations and the people that work for them. The second helped me understand the huge impact that Anne-Marie Slaughter’s piece in the Atlantic would have when she wrote about her personal challenges in ‘having it all.’
I’m not sure it’s possible to actively seek out weak signals – often times, serendipity seems to play a key role. But here are some ideas:
– Don’t turn your back on what seems hard to comprehend. Frankly I was amazed by the questions at the LBS event. What was wrong with these women that my personal life was so interesting to them? Yet as I reflected on what had happened I began to realise that I had inadvertently tapped into a deep seam of anxiety. I began to realise that young women are genuinely concerned about their future, and as a commentator about the future I needed to understand this and indeed learn more about it. I’ve learnt to be very sensitive to people or ideas that don’t fall into my way of thinking.
– Be prepared to get off the beaten path. I had not expected to learn about technology through a family visit to East Africa. Yet by getting out of my normal routine I was faced with new experiences that presented me with weak signals and new insights.
– Mix with different people. It’s easy in a busy life to spend lots of time with people similar to ourselves. Yet often the ‘weak signals’ are found in unexpected conversations. So these days I try to spend time every week with people who are different from me. People who don’t necessarily walk the paths that I do, and whose experience of the world is profoundly different from mine.
Looking ahead is such a wonderful thing to do – and weak signals can be just the way to do this.