Change, reinvention and pluralism

October 29, 2018
Change, reinvention and pluralism

Well goodbye old, hello new. Today I thought it was probably about time I shared what I’ve been up to recently and some plans for the future.

  1. Workio Ltd — Where I am joining Kieron Faller, as the Co-Founder/CTO to help build what we hope will be the next big thing in people science. The brainchild of Kieron, who developed it for his thesis with Dr Sanna Palsule, uses data modeling, info-tech, and machine learning to provide insight and plans for building incredible company culture. Currently around 55% of my time.
  2. Prolifik Ltd — My very own boutique tech, growth, and capital advisory, where I formalise ongoing engagements with some fantastic clients. Helping them to build/grow innovative products, services, and business models. The focus here is value creation, maximising Enterprise Value and realising it. Currently around 35% of my time.
  3. TechStars — I’m taking my mentoring role more seriously and putting in more energy. Currently around 10% of my time.

Boom — 3 hats. Exciting times and we shall see how this develops. Some people tell me it is a lot, some people tell me it’s called “going plural”. I just say it’s fun and a reflection of the fast-changing world we live in now — helping as many people along the way as possible before we inevitably puff it ;)

Also, to be clear… whilst on the surface, Workio, Prolifik and TechStars all seem quite different, in actual fact, they all need pretty similar things i.e. build stuff (usually tech), grow stuff (sales and marketing) and raise/build capital (to do all that). So lots of crossover.

Besides the update on me, what then is the rest of this post all about? Well… Prolifik and Tech Stars are pretty clear, so not much more info needed. Workio, however; well this is a very new concept in the market that warrants more words to explain how Kieron and I got here and why we think it’s a game changer to help people have better careers.

Work can be better.

My career to date; 3 years running FireflySEO, 14 marketing at various companies. As most of us know, work can be incredible, work can suck, or often it’s just somewhere in the middle; a bit “Meh” as people sometimes say.

At Workio we have spent a lot of time identifying the most common factors impacting employee experience at work and it turns out that most of the time the factors pertain to company culture and/or people dynamics. A personal example for context… Sure I’ve fitted in with culture at lots of places, and those are the places I’ve loved and thrived. But (swallow pride moment) unfortunately, I have not fitted in everywhere. Important, if this has ever been you please do not take it personally as this feedback is most likely “a bit wonky”. Here are three top reasons why…

  1. Fit is not actually always what you want, sometimes you want diversity in thinking, style, approach, which as BCG have proven tends to lead to more innovative and creative outcomes. If you don’t have a voice of dissent in your team, aren’t you just surrounding your self with yes men and deluding your self?
  2. Other times and in certain teams, you actually do want fit as it can be awesome for driving collaboration, and straight up efficient delivery of tasks. But as reported in this HBR article, very often companies don’t actually understand and can’t clearly articulate their culture. In which case, how can you achieve a fit? Doesn’t make sense right?
  3. Finally, and this for me is the worst… sometimes managers just use “you do or you don’t fit” as lazy shorthand to hire and/or fire people. In others words, it is a totally subjective and assumptive point of view based on surface level information, behaviours and no heuristic of the person’s capabilities, beliefs and value system. What if that person simply needs guidance and support? Surely that is a managers role and responsibility right, I mean, after all, you brought them in!

One of the reasons Kieron and I founded Workio is that along our separate journeys, we have both been lucky enough to meet and manage people who have confided in us about their careers. Over wine and dinner one night, Kieron, Sanna and I realised that actually, everyone has a story and these stories are all pretty similar and often look a bit like this… At one moment the person is a great culture fit, flying and doing well. Another (new job, new boss, same boss u-turn)… then somehow… “allegedly” that same person just doesn’t fit anymore, and they lose. This loss can be varied, but we’ve heard all sorts and it can be life changing; from people being bullied and made to feel like pariahs, to missing promotions and sometimes even being asked or told to leave. This poor treatment is not only terrible to the human being on the receiving end, but it is toxic for colleagues left behind and it is a huge waste of money and potential for the company and for the economy more generally.

There are positive signs ahead.

Good news… companies are now beginning to hire and construct existing teams for fit. At Workio, we believe this is awesome news and when done well can materially improve outcomes for companies, employees, society and the economy. As with all things people related, it is, of course, complicated with minimal guidelines or standard practice. Not surprising then that managers and companies struggle with a consistent approach, and continue to rely on idiosyncratic and sometimes haphazard process.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad, but it is very clear and fair to say that human only assessment other humans is incredibly limited. Why? Well… as anyone who has read Thinking Fast and Slow by Danny Kahneman will know… all humans have conscious and unconscious bias. In addition to this, we all behave differently, at different times, in different situations. Combine this with resource-constrained multilateral recruitment and fast-changing cross-functional teams, it all adds up to huge scope for misguided, misjudgment, and costly mistakes.

The answer then, we believe at Workio, is to supplement our human intuition, or as Mr Kahneman calls it… our “Fast Brain”, with structured data and insight on actual company culture and build this insight into our recruitment process, team building process, and company culture. This work sits firmly in the nascent, but fast-growing space of people science, which Workio are very excited to be a part of.

How does Workio do it?

Well, after quite a bit of research by Kieron, Sanna and I, we believe we have cracked the code and got it down into a fairly slick 123, process. So here’s how…

  1. As a company, collect your employee’s real experience of the workplace and put that into a quantitative model showing you what your real culture actually is. From here, build values and a plan to help you get there.
  2. When you recruit or build teams, use structured data and insight about people, their value systems, and most importantly their needs and wants. Really understand your candidates and teams, so that you can build with confidence and move your team and company in the right direction.
  3. Segment your data, and build a plan to retain the best talent, regardless of age, gender, background or any other potential prejudice. Workio reveals culture strengths and opportunities to improve your business!

So that’s it, pretty cool eh. Well, Kieron, Sanna and I think so and we hope you do too! The job now is for us to refine this value proposition into an epic product that everyone loves.

Which leads to my conclusion.

Why are these the right moves for me, right now?

I started my career running a company. I have loved being employed in full-time marketing roles, it’s a sweet gig, interesting work and I will, of course, continue to do marketing. But there is more to business and life than marketing, and let’s be honest, there is nothing quite like the bare-faced thrill that you get from running your own thing. It wakes you up every morning, drives you on and you can learn stuff and meet people at an exhilarating rate. I’m keen to do more coding/engineering, work more with TechStars, do full end-to-end business and most important of all, I want to help people/companies (big and small) to build wow stuff.

For me, right now, this combo of roles is definitely the right choice. Where it will lead… who knows? But I’m excited, and this is a great sign.

If you’re interested in WorkioProlifik, TechStars or indeed, having a career as a so-called “Pluralist” — please do drop me a line or comment below.

Cheers for reading.

Allan :)

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