Economic growth; lessons from Africa.

I was talking to a Nigerian friend of mine recently about the growth and economic and social situation in Nigeria. He mentioned a key driver that immediately made me think about the economic situation in the UK.

Aspiration; a key ingredient in the growth of Nigeria and the drive of entrepreneurial spirit beginning to unlock the potential of 100million+ people. 

We are hearing daily news about the Bank of England, Government, Europe, and Business; their respective roles, responsibilities, and mistakes in not doing more to drive ‘growth’. It made me think that a slightly harder, but more sustainable approach (albeit unpopular politically) would be to uncover and incentivise aspiration. If we had a nation of individuals who took an aspirational (I don’t mean consumer driven) approach to life, out-with the system of education, job, entitlement, and comfortability – we might be able to actually find the drive, creativity, and innovation to create real value in our country. Encouraging more and more consumer driven spending is not aspiration. Learning, creating, inventing, working hard – these are aspirational behaviours. 

Is it simply that emerging countries have more cheap labour than the west; or that the level of aspiration to improve their with very little, puts us to shame?

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Culture and application of technology

Recently it has become clear to me that there is a two speed progress towards the realisation of business value from technology and innovation around data and information.

The hares of the business world are focused on the application of technology to drive innovation, customer experience and real business value. This is not new. The difference between them and those on the slow track – is culture.

Reconciling two different generations that are very different in outlook and capability. At the risk of generic stereotyping; there is an older generation who can apply rigour, process, and discipline with experience. Perhaps a little more narrow-minded on technology and the capability of that technology.

A younger generation is coming through with full awareness and embedded comfort of technology and capability; but without the rigour and focus that comes with the functional, measured approach that business has had since the industrial revolution.

Marrying these two together with a complementary, educated and clear culture; results in the full benefits of the advancements we have made. Decision making based on data and information is embedded within the culture of the young. Gut, instinct, and experience of the senior teams could benefit greatly from a closing of the gap between real insight, the customer experience and decisions.

Those organisations that grasp the nettle of change, culture, and people will gain competitive advantage. Those that are focused on technology and processes will lose out.

Culture is hard, people are difficult, and organisations lack the insight and feel of how to create good cultures. But those that encourage the adoption and melding of the old and the new – will claim the prize.

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Resetting of values

Like most of us, it has been hard to escape the news of corporate chicanery. Whether its the banks fixing rates, miss-selling products to SME’s, or pharma selling products without appropriate authorisation; it’s hard to escape the overwhelming feeling that much of the ‘growth’ during the boom years didn’t come by honest means.

It feels very much like the wealthy (businesses and individuals) got richer on the exploitation and manipulation of the masses and the system.

We know this – the only surprise is the amount we still have to uncover.

It is amusing to watch the efforts to prop up a system that daily seems to be morally and ethically corrupt.

Everything – from data to finance, from politics to boardroom; is exploited to create profit and bonuses for ever hungry employees and ‘shareholders’.

I wonder if there will be a backlash soon, when most of us realise the system isn’t going to be fixed, when we realise there is more to life than working for companies that give nothing back. Attempts are made at CSR, a drop in the ocean against the exploitation and lack of value being created where we need it most – structurally in the communities and relationships that matter.

Maybe when we don’t have the ease of consumption – we will reset our values to giving more?

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Politicians, listen to us!

Dear Anne
I write to you as a father, human, and concerned citizen. Babies and children are being killed. At the same age as my children, 6, 3, and 1. We invade, kill, and justify intervention in many countries in our ‘national interests’. The securing of power, economic levers, natural resources, national security. We allow rendition of innocent people, to satisfy our political partners. We do many things that are unspoken, kept secret, and unjustified in our own interests.

Yet now (and before in Bosnia, Rwanda, Sudan) – we talk vacuous talk, we make meaningless statements, and we do the sum total of nothing.

I ask you as our elected representative, to do everything in your power to agitate, stir up, and draw attention to what is happening with Syria. We are global citizens, we want to travel, buy, consume, and admire the world. We cannot not take responsibility.

Represent us, your constituency to do something right. Speak up, listen to us, and know that you and all politicians make yourselves meaningless and irrelevant of you don’t listen to what we want, what is important to us, and what we care about.

Something must be DONE about Syria, where children are being killed, murdered, and massacred.

As Edmund Burke said, “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is that good men do nothing”

Hear us, and do something.

Ben Silcox

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Old dogs, new tricks?

Let me start by saying, this is not about age.

Have been attending a technology for business event. Lots of discussions on emerging technologies and the application / opportunity for business. I can’t help but feel that the real value for businesses will not emerge for a few more years – because fundamentally, there is a lack of knowledge, understanding, and arrogance about it. Trying to reference something new against your own knowledge is fundamentally limiting.
This means that people in positions don’t think about value, and how it can be created – because you have vested interest in a role / position.

Disruption by new businesses will keep coming, because businesses are made up of people made up of limited structures, limited understandings, and limited horizons.

This isn’t a blanket view, but based on what I see an hear – it makes me feel that there are two wheels turning at different speeds.

It requires a mindset of creativity, analytical thinking, curiosity, and humbleness that is missing in large businesses.

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Preventing disruption

Large companies that are established, traditional and with significant market share face a difficult challenge. How to compete with startup businesses that are agile, fast, employ new or emerging technology and with a close connection to customers; disrupt the established order. So far, we know this.

A little thought about how big corporate behemoths could guard against this disruption. 

Utilising the same approach and methods that create the opportunities for startups – speed, agility, technology & focus. Combine this with flat decision making, remove barriers, and provide a focus on value.

Divide your business up into smaller, flatter business units with an entrepreneurial culture. Remove line of business silos, and replace with multi skilled teams that are organised around the customer. Understand that data and technology are enablers to create a better product or service. Remove personal KPI’s (old school) and add in result indicators focused on value. 

Too many businesses only measure output, sometimes input – but this all exists at a ‘task’ level. It doesn’t inspire passion, purpose, or innovation. Get more of your employees touching the customer. Give them responsibility to align technology, analytics, organisation development to create real value.

You could create a culture that focuses more on the customer, true value creation, and innovation that could match the disruptive start up.

Businesses that are focused on customer experience, problem solving, innovation and speed – will deliver far more value to shareholders than businesses managed by a few C-level executives who focus on quarterly short term performance to line their own pockets. 

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Organisational insanity

“‘The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.”

How often can this be applied to businesses – in many sizes and shapes. We had the effects of this recently in Financial Services; where the Risk and Revenue generating sides of the business didn’t know what the other side was doing. Products and services were so complicated – that managing and mitigating that risk was not actually possible.

We structure businesses in silo’s, based on the business functions; sales, marketing, operations, risk, finance, etc. We then manage these functions, and reward performance of the individuals according to their functional performance.

But in so many cases – it doesn’t work.

What actually makes a difference in organisations; (increasing performance, sustainability, and value) – is largely unseen and hidden. This is due to the fact that these key streams are horizontal – and run across the business. Process, People, Customer, etc.

It is amazing how many organisations are ignorant of their customer journey; what moments, with what staff, with what processes the customer interacts with the business in a journey.

An example; Information Governance – it happens all across the organisation, it happens in every silo of every business (data quality, data management, data input, reporting & analysis); every day. Yet it is unseen, because it is a horizontal process; in many cases costing the business in time, money, and performance. 

We measure functional job roles with KPI’s, we then reward this performance, regardless of whether this actually drives business performance, sustainability, or customer experience.

I have a different view. Rather than having the Chief Financial Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, Chief Operations Officer; we should actually structure business in a way that reflects the net impact of the business on itself and it’s customers.

We should have the Chief Process Officer, Chief Customer Officer, and Chief People Officer. We should then make the functional line of business managers only Heads of Department. The weight and power should lie with people that understand, have responsibility and are rewarded on the enterprise-wide business behaviours that actually drive performance and sustainability. They should be measured on Key Results Indicators that reflect these horizontal streams (customer experience, satisfaction, efficiency, staff innovation, staff satisfaction, team-work).

Now, you would have an organisation that is set up to reflect the world we live in, the experience our customers actually have, and the efficiencies and opportunities that are hidden from view. Innovation, Information Management, Customer Journey & Experience.

Why would I want a business run by a functional domain expert (sales, marketing, ops, finance) who does not understand or care about the net effect on the business and the customer of their line of business processes?

Why would I want people in my organisation doing the same things, replicating each others work inefficiently – and not know the cost of this?

Weight of power, responsibility, reward, measurement and intelligence needs to be captured at the senior level – with a focus on the customer, stakeholder, and sustainable future.

You won’t get a different result with businesses structured in a way that rewards insular, selfish, and narrow-minded views of the customer and the business.

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