31 December 2019 - Dreamforce - Going deeper into the content

In the third of this mini series from Dreamforce 2019 I look deeper into some of the talks I was lucky to attend. The first 2 were presentations from Monday's Innovation Tour, while the other 2 were fireside chats with Benioff. I have put these 4 together as they all resonated with me and as I listened to each one I furiously took notes and came away with some gems that I want to take forward with me into my own work. 

The first talk was from Matt Egol, Partner, Digital Strategy and Innovation for PwC. While his slide deck was a small assault against my eyes and his delivery a touch under powered, especially to a jet-lagged audience, his content was really interesting. PwC is suggesting to move away from traditional metrics of ROI and Net Promoter Scores and for businesses to now measure a consumer-centred metric; 'Return On Experience' (ROX). 

Essentially the gist is this; as a leadership you need to capture insights into what your customer wants. You then develop a vision and define a culture so you can achieve these goals. Begin working on your outputs and look to scale. Feedback is key and should be a continuous loop from both customers and employees as this will help to refine behaviours, mindset, relations and this in turn affects the overall culture of the business. Insights from continuous feedback also helps to shape the product/service and it is important to iterate over increments, adapting and testing new features to deliver new innovation. This in turns develops loyalty and trust with not only your employees but your customers too. Their collective experience drives a better performing business. 

The second, utterly engaging presentation/workshop was from Dr. Linda Hall, a Professor from Harvard. She and her team have the pleasure of tapping into many businesses, often run by ex-students of Dr. Hall so she can seek bleeding edge insights on how businesses are succeeding. Her program of studies are called Collective Genius.  

Her findings flowed nicely from Matt's. He talked about how leadership needs to be proactive about their employees and customer experiences and take their feedback so they can act on the outputs to continuously shape culture and loyalty. 

Linda went further to say that terminology also needs to change in business too. If companies run 'pilots' then there is an expectation that they will succeed. In reality, many fail. Failure is not seen as a positive word. In some businesses if someone tries something and it is seen as a failure then there is a perception that the person will be sidelined and passed over for any future promotion. People are therefore afraid to take risks as it can be career limiting. 

Meanwhile, experiments are all about learning. Experiments can fail all the time, be iterated on until success is achieved. Businesses should embrace the idea of experimentation as it opens up creative agility and allowing for adjustments to be made. In order for experimentation to be successful then leadership needs to supply a vision and then make space for others to innovate. 

A business should have 2 sides to it, the 'shoulds' and 'coulds'. The 'shoulds' are the business as usual (BAU) team who maintain the performance of the business and are guided by management. The 'coulds' are the innovators. They need to have the ability to make decisions. This allows for creative abrasion - the ability to rub ideas around to help shape them. If a decision has to be escalated then this can add risk to the innovation as it rises to a level of leadership that won't have enough information to push it in the right direction and instead could kill the idea. 

Another change in terminology is to move away from Digital Transformation and call it Digital Strategy. Transformation sounds too scary for many businesses and too large to cope with, while Strategy is more bite sized and achievable. 

The third talk was the first fireside chat that Benioff hosted and his interviewee was Tim Cook, CEO of Apple. Benioff was an intern at Apple many decades ago and still has a sweet spot for the brand. His interview reminisced over these times and his relationship with the late Steve Jobs. 

Tim, meanwhile, did impart some gems starting with Apple's objective which was always to be the best, not the most or first but just to make the best products which enrich people's lives. Their innovation has been to make things better, but it's not just about change. It has been a waterfall of innovation over the decades. Apple innovates while staying true to their values such as embedding privacy into their products, despite Government requests for back doors. Apple has also now achieved running the company on 100% renewable energy. The next step is to work with their suppliers to do so too. 

Tim finished his interview with some poignant messages which I think as leaders we should absorb, and these are: The basic way we treat one another will solve many problems. Search your purpose. The reason we are here is to help someone else. We are here in the service of other people. 

The last talk that I wanted to share as it also site so well with the other 3 is the fireside chat that Benioff hosted with President Obama. For the 20th year of Salesforce, this was certainly an amazing speaker lineup for Dreamforce and I consider myself so lucky to have had the opportunity to watch this interview in particular. 

There was a real rapport between the two, with some gentle ribbing along the way. Benioff mentioned how he has just released a book and then asked Obama how his was coming along. Obama retorted with how a lot happened over 8 years in office to squeeze into a book and then mocked Benioff over his sophistication of questioning. 

Obama is building a foundation to create leaders of leaders. A good leader can unleash and harness the potential in others. By empowering others it can transform other people and with that an organisation. Obama referenced how poop rolls up hill. If someone cannot fix the issue then it is escalated upwards to you. Empowerment allows for decision making to be done at lower levels in a business. These people who are on the front line and closer to the main problems can then make the right decisions and in a timely manner.

I've worked for a few people who could do with this general insight. One boasted to me that she was a control freak, others micro manage or find it hard to delegate. For me, the message is clear. To have a successful business in this progressive age then as leaders we must provide the vision and give a space for creativity and innovation. Permit employees to experiment, be respectful and empower them to make the right decisions without destroying creativity and speed of delivery by having escalate. As leaders, we should listen and welcome continuous feedback to gently nudge the direction with fuzzy leadership. And to remember above all, the over riding message from Obama; be kind, be useful.


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