Future of Work, Startup Innovation

Startup lessons for the workplace

I discovered this really awesome resource on the BBC – articles and exposes on work life: https://www.bbc.com/worklife/

In it I came across this intriguing concept of Adaptability Quotient in an article: Is ‘AQ’ more important than intelligence?

This is based on the thinking of someone who has extensive experience working with startups, investing in them really, in her role at Goldman Sachs. Here is her Ted talk on the subject.

AQ is not just the capacity to absorb new information, but the ability to work out what is relevant, to unlearn obsolete knowledge, overcome challenges, and to make a conscious effort to change. AQ involves flexibility, curiosity, courage, resilience and problem-solving skills too.

Natalie Fratto

My interest is in how lessons learned working with startup founders on what is likely to make them successful can be applied to work and career management. This is the essence of the BBC article. It’s especially relevant in the work I do with customers in Digital Transformation, with concepts like tech intensity that speeds up the need for change and adaptability which I wrote about here: Tech Intensity and the Adaptive Organisation.

So compelling is this interest that I wrote an eBook and trend report about it (more here: Startup Innovation) and write many posts like this one under the category with the same title. My premise and that of many others is that large traditional and incumbent organisations (and the employees in them) would do well to emulate startups in many ways and innovate like them.

Customer Success

Customer Success outcomes and their causes

what leads to customer success and how can you manage that for enterprise software as a service

I’m trying to distil the essence in this doodle, often for my own sanity, to help me focus on the right activities in the work I do with customers.

Ultimately its for colleagues and customers, to help them understand and rally them behind my efforts 😁

It’s fairly self explanatory I think as I wanted to keep its simple and within a framework of three – three main outcomes, three main causes for each outcome. But here is some brief elaboration.

  • Activities are sequential. You can only get to value when you have done important pre-work, i.e. introduce a new tool and focus on its use, then how it should be scaled and embedded in real work and then on changing behaviours and driving real business impact.
  • But planning and focus is nonsequential. You have to start with the end in mind and work backwards – what are you trying to achieve, what is necessary to achieve it, how to measure it, what activities will drive it, etc.
  • These activities are all that matter in customer success. Everything else is peripheral. If you can get people to focus on these things, their supporting activities and the measurement of them then you will be successful. If you lead a team of customer success managers, remove everything else that does not contribute to these activities or gets in their way.
  • By supporting activities I mean things like tools to track these activities and the impact they are having, measurement systems, playbooks to drive the correct activities, systems and governance, etc.

One caveat to emphasise: These are activities that apply largely to the enterprise Software as a Service category in which I have the most experience.

I’m by no means perfect in my views. These are based on roughly 8 years in a customer success role. But I spent approximately 2 hours on putting this together. I’m pretty sure I’ve missed something so would love to hear from you if so 🙃

Sense Making

Playing your part in the machine of business is hard. Start with mindset.

Business transformations or change management efforts are a dime a dozen. We are bombarded by the constant need for change in the face of accelerating change. We get we need to build an ability to master change.

The problem is in the face of cynical change or transformation programs
where many have gone wrong, we have become inure to them.

Business is hard even without these constant demands and efforts. Competition is stiffer as the world becomes open to more entrants and barriers are lowered.

As individuals we are also constantly bombarded with admonishments to be better, more productive, keep up.

Mental health has never been more in focus and yet more pernicious in the face of all this. It imperils us as individuals and the businesses we work in – it comes at a cost to both. It can bring both to a grinding halt if left unchecked.

Mental health is a serious matter which often needs serious treatment that can come from expert help and with medication.

We also know instinctively that many afflictions arise in the mind by our own doing and can be solved there.

I am a huge believer in the power of the mind. As a keen follower of Buddhist philosophy over many years (a DharmaHacker really) I am convinced of the role the mind plays in guiding our reality. As the saying goes:

Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought.

Acharya Buddharakkhita’s translation of the Dhammapada

But just as much as vacuous mission statements and change or transformation initiatives cannot really change an organisation if the behaviours of leaders do not reflect them, so too with thought alone we cannot change anything.

The Buddha’s view on positive thinking was that if it violates reality, it’s worthless. Just as you can’t make a boulder rise into the air by means of wishful thinking, so you can’t experience happiness unless you actually do the things that lead to happiness, such as living ethically.

Speech and action determine our reality as much as our thoughts do. Yet thought and mindset is a factor and so on that front, let us mind what we think.

We can do that through stories. And metaphors. And the minds of others.

I am as inspired as the next by great stories, metaphors, quotes and the great minds who have shared their thoughts with the world, like the Buddha.

Coming back to the world of business, there is none more inspirational than Buckminster Fuller (July 12, 1895–July 1, 1983).

In the light of all of the challenges we face as individuals in companies big and small and faced with the daunting proposition that we cannot make a difference, Buckminster Fuller presents the ultimate metaphor to help us – the trim tab.

There is such a great account of his trim tab metaphor here on BrainPickings: Buckminster Fuller’s Brilliant Metaphor for the Greatest Key to Transformation and Growth.

In essence, the trim tab is part of a large ship’s navigation and contained within the rudder. It is like a little rudder that is easy to shift but this effects the big rudder, the one harder to move, and this one moves the ship.

It speaks to the power of individual action and the effect of habit on transforming our lives. You can see how this translates to the businesses we work in every day and how to overcome the feeling that we are powerless.

There are so many more and here below are just a few of my favourites.

Stainslaw Jerzy Lec who was a Polish poet said “No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.” Actually, this metaphor is a great compliment to Fuller’s in my view.

At first it may not seem to be the case because it speaks to herd thinking, mob rule and the danger of conformity and going along with the crowd which have lead to some of the worlds worst atrocities.

Yet I love it because it points to accountability and the need for you to avoid the above and make sure you can stand alone, against the winds of change sometimes.

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” Mother Teresa said that and I love it too because it says look to yourself for inspiration and just do it.

At Google X, the company’s “moonshot factory,” they supposedly use the mantra of MonkeyFirst.

“The idea is that if you want to get a monkey to recite Shakespeare on a pedestal, you start by training the monkey, not building the pedestal, because training the monkey is the hard part. Anyone can build a pedestal.”

“The problem is that most people start with the pedestal, because it’s what they know and by building it, they can show early progress against a timeline. Unfortunately, building a pedestal gets you nowhere. Unless you can actually train the monkey, working on the pedestal is wasted effort.”

The analogy with my line of work is striking. I deal with how organisations adopt technology and often it is the first port of call for most but technology alone is not enough. One has to look at the outcomes, the motivations and inspiration, the people, etc.

And finally…

“Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one”. Stella Adler said that which is why I am so inspired by art and design and so I doodle which brings me to a recent one 😁

What are your favourites and how do they work for you?