Now, more than ever, the power of collaboration is manifesting itself across space and time. Digital tools are helping us to create connections between seemingly disparate interests and to solve problems on a global scale. Nevertheless, in regions in development and, in particular, in Latin America, there exists a range of problems in the public and private sectors that could be solved through collaboration, innovation and excellence. Problems such as energy generation, response to natural disasters, and high school desertion to name just a few. Design thinkers say that collaboration is viable when there is a better understanding of users, a relevant place to prototype ideas and the built-in motivation to implement those ideas. If you turn this around, it holds true that if you don’t have these three elements, collaboration – and the viability of using “community” to solve problems – may just be impossible. What is happening in Latin America, then, to make “community” viable? Perhaps a closer look at these three elements can help us see why the region is falling short.Embed from Getty Images
First, when we better understand users, we can better address needs and design a product or service that fits those needs. Seems simple, but implementation of this element is difficult in high context cultures such as those that exist in the majority of countries in Latin America. In cultures that encourage alignment with social status and formal social rules, understanding users – and users in multiple interest groups – is a challenge. It involves using interviewing techniques and empathy to gain a complete understanding of stakeholders and usage. Understanding what question to ask and being able to bring the answer from various areas into context, helps form an accurate picture of users and their needs. Striving for a better understanding of users – and using multiple research methods in order to overcome cultural characteristics – is key in solving users’ problems.Embed from Getty Images
Second, designing solutions must be an interactive process. We will always need a place to work with stakeholders, test assumptions and take risks. This is why innovation centers sometimes fail: they need to work with community and not in isolation from them. Nevertheless, innovation centers in Latin America specifically are extremely useful in fostering more cross functional collaboration and mitigating some of the risks associated with large scale innovation investments in developing countries. Multinationals Dupont and BBVA as well as “multilatina” Stefanini have successfully gained insights and new products through their centers; illustrating that while innovation centers may have their drawbacks, they can be a relevant place to prototype ideas.
Finally, motivation must be present at the idea implementation phase. This means that while we may have a prototype or project, there is always more work to be done in implementing the idea. What can help with the successful implementation of the idea is community. As the old saying goes, people are more committed to that which they help build. If communities are collaborating on ideas that benefit them; they will have a higher successful implementation rate. There is also the possibility for the ideas that spread. Like a TED Talk, a good idea can spread and be implemented much faster when members of community that will benefit from the idea get involved and share their passion around a solution.
Is community viable? Yes it is. But seeing collaboration for what it is – working towards understanding users, engaging users and prototyping with users in the Prototype-Pilot-Product triad – makes community collaboration viable. In Latin America in particular, understanding these elements and their unique challenges in our region, is essential in community viability.
Transformation is about profound change. Peter Drucker predicted that by 2020 a new world – completely different form our grandparents’ reality – would exist. Drucker, father of modern management, explained in a 1992 essay for Harvard Business Review, that “every few hundred years throughout Western history, a sharp transformation has occurred. In a matter of decades, society altogether rearranges itself – its worldview, its basic values, its social and political structures, its arts, its key institutions.”
It is a privilege to live through transformation; to be given the opportunity to see how society rearranges itself over the course of the years; to experience our grandparents’ reality along with our children’s triumphs and challenges. But no privilege comes without responsibility and I feel extremely responsible having been given the opportunity at a young age to take a step back and experience a bygone era; in my case, an era of sailing ships, leisure travel, unchartered waters and traditional navigational tools like compass and sextant.
Last year I wrote about what I had learnt about leadership on a 111 foot topsail schooner. This year I am grappling with how to be leaders in an age of transformation. The 2014 Global Drucker Forum focused on Transformation: Managing Our Way to Prosperity and it got me thinking about how we are given gifts through our experience and upbringing and how these gifts – when aligned correctly – can help us be able to “see around corners” and build a future in a transforming world; a world, as Drucker says, completely different from the one our grandparents and even parents grew up in.
I grew up on sailing ships; traditional wooden sailing ships that had very few comforts beyond a bunk, a well-stocked galley kitchen, and solidly built hull and rigging. How did this prepare me for thinking about transformation? I think living simply helps us to see something right in front of all of us: humanity. I think that with a human focus and finding those things that connect us all – the shining Southern Cross constellation, dolphins playing at the bow, lava rolling into a frothy sea off the Hawaiian Islands or voices joined in chorus to accompany raising sails – we are more prepared to see how we can keep continuity, stay relevant and move towards bettering our organizational practices even in a completely transformed (and transforming) society.
Transformation is about profound change so we must dig deep to find the simple things that connect us all. We must align ourselves with human interest and a larger purpose in order to survive and be relevant as the world changes around us.
Aristotle said that society is something that precedes the individual. If society undergoes change we cannot look to further individual or even organizational goals but rather have those goals connected to something larger.
Tell me and I forget; show me and I remember; involve me and I understand.
Some classic Seth Godin for your Saturday!
Last month I submitted an idea to the Inter American Development Bank on how to get students more “engaged” with education in Latin America. It’s my response to a troubling problem: nearly 1 out of every 2 young people in Latin America does not finish high school. You can find my idea to the IDB “Graduate XXI” competition here in English or in Spanish (choose Spanish option at top of page).
For me, education is the basis for building better societies, communities and businesses. It’s the foundation for us to convert our ideas into reality.
Would love to get your feedback as I have another interesting idea on designing a better education system which I will share with you soon!
When I moved to Latin America over 10 years ago, I was told that my great grandfather (British) had travelled to Brazil from the UK over a hundred years before; it was my grandmother’s way of telling me that I was not the only one in my family to be attracted to South America and the great opportunities it held.
People and organizations are informed by the experiences of the people, companies and products that came before. We can’t help it. We walk with our ancestors every day in the conscious and subconscious choices we make and the languages we speak.
As a consultant, I have the opportunity to work with many different organizations and “walk with them” as they enter or expand their presence in Latin America.
One of the most important things I have learnt is to understand, at the outset, what ties the business to Latin America or the geographical markets they are entering. Even if the organization has no direct experience in the region, what is it in their DNA that makes them “Latin American” — able to be understood, respected, and sought out, by Latin Americans? I’m not talking about trying to transform companies into something they are not but rather looking for “relatable” stories that can be shared and enjoyed by future stakeholders.
I have seen companies with no local partners do very well — if and when they are able to tell a compelling story about their connection to Latin America or the country, city, community they are interacting with.
If you are interested in Latin America – or entering a new market – what stories do you have that tie you to that market?
Let me close this post on a personal note. Above, you will see a photo of my sister, Dr. Leah Clark and me in Pakistan in 2005. We are just outside Peshawar on the border with Afghanistan in the North West Frontier Province; where my father was born just before Partition in 1947. Below you will see a video by Google that has been shared widely in 2013.
When I talk about walking with our ancestors, I talk about finding out what makes us, them, the world “tick” so that we can create more valuable collaborative experiences.
I grew up in a family where reading and writing – and communicating – was cherished and promoted. We had a family room lined with bookshelves and we did not own a television when I was growing up. Language, literature and learning were instilled in us from an early age.
So I am biased towards good writing. Despite the trend towards digital and real time content, there is still a growing need for great writers. Great writers can articulate your brand’s beliefs in a product, service and in the brand itself. That’s the connection between branded content – defined as any form of content that carries a brand’s logo, message and / or values – and writing. Good writing = good branded content. Great writing = great branded content.
“We swim in language as fish swim in the sea, not noticing the power that our words have to manifest, to create and to destroy.” This is a quote by Mary Jo Asmus in a recent blog on the “word” in Smart Blog on Leadership.
Why do we need great writers? Because they are integral in building our brand and our following.
On a final note, here is a good article by Dave Kerpen (CEO Likeable Local – Likeable Media) that he published on LinkedIn this past week where he talks about how to become a better writer – and be taken more seriously.
Enjoy the weekend! EMC
Corporate Governance is more than just restoring or maintaining (public) confidence in a company; it’s about organizations making better decisions.
A few months ago I was in touch with a former colleague who I greatly admire – not only for his excellent management skills but also for the person that he is – kind, generous, honest and down to earth. We were talking about my consulting business and he asked me: “what is corporate governance”?
I realized that while many people (including very smart and skilled managers) might know that corporate governance relates to managing a corporation, they might not know exactly what it means. And it got me thinking that if more people know about corporate governance it might influence a shift towards creating more responsible and relevant organizations – especially those companies that we interact with as investors, employees, consumers, partners, etc.
Corporate governance to me, as a consultant, means helping boards (board of directors) make better decisions. It is a framework and a practice (within that framework) that ensures that corporate decisions benefit all stakeholders.
It is said that the introduction of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in the US in 2002 ushered in a (renewed) interest in corporate governance because it was seen as a way to restore confidence in a “system”.
There is no doubt that corporate governance is a balancing act; organizations are good corporate citizens when they are not just concerned with profit but also short, medium and long term effects of their actions on the environment, community and their investors (including employees, suppliers, government etc.) It’s as much about PR as it is about internal controls, disclosure and performance management and compensation. For example, executive pay and benefits is a corporate governance issue if bonuses are tied to making short term decisions that could harm the organization. Such issues are kept in check by having an oversight committee or board of directors that examines executive actions, pay and risk.
So what does corporate governance mean to you? To me it means making sure that different voices are heard and that key decisions are not biased towards just making money or keeping a special interest group quiet. Corporate governance means that key decisions are made by taking into consideration different stakeholders in order to support the well-being of the entire organization.