I attended the World Business Forum in Sydney in May and June this year (along with 3000 of my closest friends). The 2 day event was packed with sensational speakers, inspiration and motivation and I want to share my top 9 take outs with you.
1. Perception of simplicity.
Ken Segall, former Ad Agency Creative Director at Apple, proposes that the perception of simplicity is essential. Our customers can get overwhelmed with too much choice. By making things simple for them, we can make their path to purchase easier and quicker. He argues that being simple isn't simple. It requires discipline and a ruthless approach, especially when it comes to the customer experience. He advises that in business we should do fewer things better. As the man behind the "i" in iMac, I think Ken knows a thing or two about simplicity and making it a commercial success. He challenges us with Einstein's quote: "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough". How can you apply the principle of simplicity to your business?
2. Flexibility in the middle.
"Everything can look like failure in the middle" is what Rosabeth Moss Kanter is calling "Kanter's Law". Apart from attempting to extend her legacy, Rosabeth had some valid points about strategy. She challenges us to hold on tightly to our vision, but be flexible in the approach. By being locked in to a set plan, we are immediately closed to outside opportunities. By remaining flexible in our approach, we can keep our eyes open to new opportunities along the way. Rosabeth holds the Ernest L Arbuckle Professorship at Harvard Business School where she specialises in strategy, innovation and leadership for change. She has been named as one of the 50 most influential business thinkers in the world by Accenture and Thinkers 50. Rosabeth dares us to not just get out of the box, but also out of the building. Working collaboratively may be the flexibility you need to make your vision a reality.
3. Be agile, ambidextrous and collaborative.
The author and Professor from the Kellogg School of Management, Mohanbir Sawhney spoke about innovation and the importance of executing small projects quickly as a key to success. By innovating with agility, we should be involving customers in our business improvements and innovations. He also tasked us with considering the option of establishing separate teams for innovation. He points out that in traditional business teams, failure is not an option, and so by being focused on success and operations, we cannot be focused on creativity and innovation. By separating the innovations team from the operational team, the creative thinkers can use trial and error approaches without eating away at the core business. Whilst I acknowledge that Mohan's work is mainly for larger corporations, I believe this approach would suit smaller organisations also. In a world where cashflow is king, separating the innovations team, along with the required investment, allows for the core business to remain focused. A win win. Something to think about!
4. Delusion: 'To be successful we need to sacrifice'.
Arianna Huffington is the author of Thrive, Founder of the Huffington Post and in my opinion a Greek sage. I watched her keynote presentation in Sydney via video conference from Los Angeles. Whilst I was disappointed that she couldn't join us in person, she had a lot to offer. Arianna suffered a head injury a few years ago when she collapsed from exhaustion. Since then, she has invested her energy into Thrive Global. She believes that the very notion "to be successful we need to sacrifice" is a a delusion. Arianna quoted much research about the connections of wellbeing and productivity. She states that wellbeing is not a luxury, but in fact a necessity. I'm a huge fan of Arianna's and whilst sometimes I wonder if it's easier to take this approach when you are very wealthy, her message resonates with me. Whilst consulting for a not-for-profit last year, I was able to investigate further the links between wellbeing and productivity myself. As a mother, wife, sister, daughter, business owner, employer I am like many others juggling priorities daily. Success for me is a holistic picture, not just an attractive profit and loss statement and balance sheet. Arianna certainly sent me home with questions about how I can use this information to better my business. If you want to read more about Arianna's point of view, check out Thrive Global.
5. The higher you are in the organisation, the more important emotional intelligence is.
Daniel Goleman is a renowned psychologist and leading authority on emotional intelligence. Daniel's contributions to the field of psychology have had a transformational impact on the business world. He has been named by the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times as one of their most influential business thinkers. My favourite book (at the moment) of Daniel Goleman's is Focus. At the World Business Forum in Sydney, Daniel presented findings about 'flow' (the area between boredom and stress where optimal performance is found) which is sometimes called 'the zone' in the sports world and its application in business. Not only did he encourage us to find ways to use flow within the workplace he also explained how critical it is for effective leaders to have great emotional intelligence. He cited research that demonstrates that the higher you are in the organisation, the more likely it is your emotional intelligence that will set you apart as a star. The good news is, emotional intelligence can be learned and developed. I found Daniel's presentation to be exciting and interesting with so much science to back it all up - my mind did boggle. If you want to know more, I highly recommend you read Focus. I loved this book. Or go to www.danielgoleman.info
6. Surprises are wonderful.
One of my key takeouts is that surprises are wonderful. I went to Sydney with stars in my eyes very excited to hear from authors I have read for the past few years. If I be honest, I felt like a child in a candy shop! So many people I admire on one stage. Somewhere in the middle was this Ian Williamson fellow. I figured they had to pad out the forum with some no-names so my expectations of Ian weren't that high at all. To say I was blown away is an understatement! If you read this Ian - please forgive my ignorance. I had never heard of you before I arrived in Sydney. But I will never forget you. Ian Williamson is the Helen Macpherson Smith Chair of Leadership for Social Impact at the Melbourne Business School. He is a tall thin American with the presentation skills generally reserved for an American president. Ian cited many examples where success comes from addressing social issues. Not just social success or feel good changes, but societal changes and massive commercial gains. He asked us "What are the social issues faced by the communities your organisation serves?" and "What opportunities might be created for your firm by addressing the market failures created by social issues?" In 2020 there will be more 65 year olds than 1 year olds. In 2020 there will be as many people who are aged 60-70 years and people aged 10-20 years. Some interesting facts to consider. Ian also spoke about the cost of poor mental health to our workplaces and mentioned various reports citing the cost to Australian workplaces as $10.9billion per year. With all of this in mind, it makes me wonder who will best placed to address these major social changes? Some food for thought.
7. Fire alarms aren't for the feint hearted.
We experienced a full fire alarm (which turned out to be a fire contained within the area it started so we didn't have to evacuate) during the presentation of Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, (not to be confused with the Wikileaks guy). Jimmy's presentation, although interrupted many times by loud alarms was interesting. I discovered that Wikipedia is established as a not-for-profit and that Jimmy is about to launch WikiTribune, a for profit news company. It will be very interesting to see the impact WikiTribune has on the already fractured world of news. Keep an eye out for it.
8. Have people in your life that are honest, brutally honest.
I have met many business people that are often told yes. Yes by this person, yes by that person and especially when the person offering the yes is an employee, it's not likely to change. I have offered my services to some of these successful business people who value my no when it's warranted. Hopefully, my brutally honest contributions continue to be valued. I imagine that the more successful and protected you become, the more you have yes people. At least, I imagine that is what has happened in Randi Zuckerberg's world. I listened to Randi, the former Director of Marketing at Facebook at the World Business Forum 2 years ago and I was impressed. She was a big reason I invested so much to go back again this year. Two years ago, she made a comment that when translated from American to Australian, was not as intended. Which, I forgave her for. An American in Australia for probably the first time - you're entitled to get it a bit mixed up. But to return 2 years later with the same joke (and the same audience reaction) was disappointing. I get that you don't know what you don't know. The lesson I have learned though is that we all must create a situation where someone can be brutally honest with us. Randi should have had this candid feedback long before she took the stage. But has she surrounded herself with yes people? Or created an environment for honest, brutal feedback? I learned from Randi, not what I expected, but a very valuable lesson, none-the-less.
9. NSW doesn't get State of Origin like we do in QLD.
I was in Sydney at the Star for the Origin which happened to coincide with the World Business Forum. Of course, I wore my maroon warm woolies the day of the game and even in defeat the day after. Because that's what you do when you're a Queenslander. I didn't get one comment, even when I mentioned that there was a little game of football on tonight. Now I know I was at a business event, that was with mostly corporates, but still, we were at the Star - the major sponsor of the blues. They just don't get it. Lesson learned. It's a good thing. I'm not complaining. Queenslander! In case you're wondering - that's me in the front row of the photo to the far right.
I absolutely love getting away to quality conferences, and I love sharing my experience with others. In fact, if anyone wants me to ever go to a conference on their behalf - please just let me know. Information is wonderful but action is transformational. Pick and choose what can assist you and get some of these learnings into action in your business. I'm off to do so for mine.