Updated: Dec 20, 2018
What a whirlwind! Whilst WayOut has been an active organisation in the annual event for six years, this was my first year of participation at the World Business Forum in Milan and all I can say is what a blast! Being given the opportunity to meet some of the top players in the Italian and international business market was not only incredibly exciting but also so humbling as a young professional. One of the incredible minds that I had the pleasure of not only meeting but also having an in depth conversation with was Ian Williamson, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Commerce at Victoria Business School (Faculty of Commerce), Victoria University of Wellington. His research in the areas of Talent, leadership and people management are not only interesting and relatively easily applied in the workplace but also invaluable to organisations preparing for tomorrow’s market.
As a technical partner, WayOut Consulting was given the opportunity to hold a private lunch event on the opening day of WBF 2018 Milan. After Giorgio (CEO, WayOut) found out he was introducing Ian Williamson at the WBF, we felt it was not only fitting to invite Professor Williamson, but we were honoured to have him at our lunch and exchange ideas. For us, Talent is an individual’s natural gift that allows them to create a competitive advantage in whatever it is that they do. Sometimes people are very aware of what their Talents are and others take time, experience and experimentation to figure it out. The important thing to note is that it’s important, or rather, absolutely vital for an organisation to ensure that their Talents are not left wasted or left to slip through their fingers. Many organisations have already come to the realisation that losing Talent is not only extremely expensive in monetary terms, but also expensive in terms of loss of creativity, know-how and potential future gains.
I took away three really important key messages from Professor Williamson’s speech that I will endeavour to implement in my work at WayOut. The first was the difference between successful and less successful businesses. He made a really great point that looking back seems so obvious but in realty not many businesses seem to actually implement in their practice and that was relevance. In what sense I hear you ask. Successful businesses sell products, services and make profits in some way or another. How do they do that? They remain relevant in their market. Seems obvious, but how do they know they are remaining relevant or how can we keep our businesses relevant? Ask the people outside of our business. Looking solely at what we are doing and how we can improve without actually consulting the outside world becomes really dangerous. Assumptions can often be incorrect as they are based on pieces of information that we have and then we need to fill in the gaps. But what if we fill in the gaps incorrectly - a common pitfall for many organisations. I must say it will take me a lot more effort, but after listening to Professor Williamson I was left inspired and motivated to contribute in a more active way to WayOut.
The second point I took away from the speech was that it doesn’t matter how small you are as a business, you can turn ideas into realty by simply asking for help from others. WayOut is in a phase of incredible growth and we are a team full of new ideas. Being a small business we are certainly limited in terms of capability when it comes to implementation and realisation of said ideas from time to time. Professor Williamson made a really great point that we don’t always need to look at or create the Talent required from within, but we can rely on our relationship building skills to seek and access it in a partnership model with other businesses open to collaboration. This is something that I hadn’t previously considered if I’m being honest, I’ve often thought about businesses becoming competitive when it comes to knowledge sharing and being rather protective of their know-how, but that isn’t always the case. In the nurturing of relationships with others, combining strengths, expertise and talents can be beneficial for both parties, creating a Win-Win deal for all involved.
Finally, Professor Williamson discussed leadership in facilitating innovation and change, which will likely involve uncertainty from all parties, leader included. People are used to being told what to do because a leader is usually seen as someone who has experience, who knows what to do and where to go. When organisations introduce new innovations or technologies often not even the most experienced of leaders will know exactly what to do. So what does a good leader do in this situation? How can they stand up and tell their team, “I don’t know”? One thing a leader can know in a situation like this is what success will or should look like, but perhaps they won’t know the best or most direct path to take in order to get there. Rather than trying to shape the path alone and directing personnel, Professor Williamson suggested leaving parameters open and allowing team members to completely develop an approach with the final goal in mind. From there, to ensure quality, it was suggested to take each groups’ or individuals’ proposals and brainstorm to guarantee the best solution is derived. In order to avoid competition or defensiveness, it is really important to shift the frame of reference from individual goals to the collective goal to ensure collaboration and participation.
Hearing such great ideas coupled with real life experiences made them not only seem more realistic, but it inspired me to actually get out there and take action. Often it is easy to talk the talk, but now it’s time to walk the walk. Coming to the end of 2018 I’m in the phase of preparation for new years resolutions 2019. Goals for the new year: Be relevant – most of all be informed in order to ensure we are being relevant, and nurture relationships in order to build partnership models and be creative in thinking about access to Talent and expertise. At this point there has been a fair bit of talking talk, watch this space to see us walk the walk. Until next time!