Spark the change is a conference that brings together people who want to change the world of work. Naturally we were keen to check it out and report back to you on our key takeaways. The best businesses don’t respond to change – they create it, so here are 10 things we learned:
1. The revolution is coming
The shift from command and control businesses to organisations of collaboration and shared ownership is happening. Gamevy a London based online gameshow company is leading the way in this area giving their employees ownership of the company. but there are many others such as Propellernet, NixonMcInnes, Finca, Surevine and Softwire that put purpose and their employees above or alongside profit. Get with it or get left behind.
2. Stories beat facts
I think we all kind of know this already, but it’s good to get a reminder. Honest, real-life stories told by Jack Hubbard of Propellernet and Tim Harford, The Undercover Economist have the biggest impact on sparking change. Describing how individuals have overcome adversity to create positive change inspires real action. Brie Rogers Lowery from Change.org re-affirmed this. She talked about how personal stories have helped their petition platform grow to over 6million users in the UK. Sell your ideas with stories not facts.
3. Non-conformity is good
Disruptive thinking is essential to having productive meetings. But voicing your ideas isn’t always as easy as it seems. Tim Harford spoke about the dangers of social conformity. Research shows how people will agree with what they think to be the wrong answer to fit in with their peers. Yet if one person gives a different answer to everyone else, even if it’s wrong as well, others gain the confidence to voice their honest opinions. The value of non-conformity gives people a voice. Seek alternative opinions to foster a more productive debate.
4. Purpose scales
It was inspiring to hear so many companies value purpose as well as profit. Life is too short to be working in a company whose purpose doesn’t inspire you. As Paul Dollman-Darrall said in his closing talk, “when you sign an employment contract you’re not signing up to a salary and a pension, you’re signing away your life”. Make sure it’s for a good purpose.
5. Jobs are dying
So we’ve known this for sometime but it was a new concept for many to grasp. The traditional way of working is inefficient for the future world of work. People are embarking on portfolio careers in flat work structures. Organisational philosophies such as Holacracy and Sociocracy are better suited to engage employees and improve staff loyalty. Rather than have jobs as we know them, new structures allow for people to come together to solve problems via a variety of outcome-orientated projects. It provides us with more involvement, contribution and growth at work.
6. Tech beats tradition
Established industries are being ripped apart by startups who embrace technology. Tech startups are solving our problems with more engaging solutions, as well as creating solutions to problems that we didn’t even know we had. Airbnb and UK copycats Housetrip are shaking up the hotel market. Uber and Hailo have changed the lives of taxi drivers forever. Suddenly we have more options than we know what to do with, we don’t have to accept the status quo.
7. Selling ideas is harder than creating them
Having only worked for startups and SMEs I’ve never fully appreciated the difficulty in creating change in large corporates. Doing workshops with people from large companies I developed a new found appreciation for the complexity and frustrations employees in larger organisations must have in creating change. Manifesting a big enough problem to get the Hippo (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) to listen is key. Paint the picture of “what would happen if we did nothing” versus the vision of what better might look like. Find your natural supporters, and use them to influence the naysayers.
8. Failure needs a new definition
So there are two categories of failure; competent and incompetent failure. Competent failure is doing everything well and it not working.
Incompetent failure is doing things badly and it not working. If you’re going to fail make sure you fail competently, make mistakes in a good direction then learn from them. This isn’t really failure, as Tim Harford put it; it’s ‘successfully demonstrating that the process did not work’. e.g. Thomas Edison competently failed 10,000 times to invent the lightbulb.
9. Ask one simple question
Jack Hubbard from Propellernet discussed how the underdog British men’s rowing eight achieved Olympic gold through their obsession over one simple question “Will it make the boat go faster?”. He revealed that his primary question is “Will it make life better?” . The pursuit of answers to this question has not only resulted in a wildly successful, purpose led company in Propellernet, but also let him embark on various new life-enriching projects, such as his Dream Valley Project and Friends in Need charity concept. Questions determine your destination – so make sure you’re answering a worthwhile one.
10. Bet small stakes
As a lean startup we know this to be true but so many people don’t practice what they preach. Information reduces risk. The more features you build the less likely your product is to succeed. Make lots of smaller bets and spread the risk to increase your chances of reaching product market fit. One of them will be a winner.
11. Hierarchy doesn’t completely suck
It’s oppressive, stifles creativity and has misled the world into thinking that climbing the career ladder is what life’s about. But does it serve a purpose? Modern business has outgrown the traditional hierarchy model but as, Paul Dolman-Darrall of Gamevy identified, hierarchy is still an effective network structure for businesses that rely on ‘repeatability’. If you want a system that minimizes the amount of communication and collaboration in an organization then go right ahead and have a hierarchy. If you want to create a culture of innovation, of community then choose a different structure.
Spark the change
Do you agree with our takeaways? What can you start implementing in your company or startup to align with the future world of work? Let us know your comments in the box below and thanks for reading.