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Sharing For Advantage

Australian business is discovering that shared values, assets and ideas are a path to success. We explore how sharing can create new revenue streams, better teams and stronger business networks.

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4 min

Unlock Business Performance

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Unlock Business Performance

Success in business and on the sporting field is built on trust, data, empathy and communication.

Idea in brief

High-performance sporting and business teams are built on trust, communication, data analysis, sharing success, and recovery from failure. We talk with some of Australia’s preeminent former athletes and business leaders about what business can learn from elite sports management.

In the 1990s, the Oarsome Foursome brought rowing into Australia’s popular consciousness. After winning gold at the 1990 World Rowing Championships, they went on to win Olympic gold at Barcelona in 1992 and Atlanta in 1996. For more than a decade they won a slew of elite-level awards in a highly competitive team sport.

So what does it take to compete at an elite level for so long? And do the skills, attributes and talents that underpin success on the sporting field have any relevance to business?

Clear communication for success

Having recently been appointed chief executive of Cycling Australia, former Oarsome Foursome member Nick Green believes there are certain parallels between sport and business, especially when it comes to communication and leadership.

“The connection between the coaches and their teams is all built along a clear, honest dialogue that crosses the divide between ‘this is what I’m seeing’, and ‘this is what you’re feeling’,” Green says. “Single-handedly, neither the coach nor the athlete can get the best performance, and without talking to and trusting each other, you cannot achieve anything at all.”

According to Green, this capacity to share ideas and communicate clearly from different perspectives underpins any successful team, whether on the sporting field or in a city office tower.

Measuring performance management

“Data is king, the ability to track performance and provide direction based on this analysis is gold – so long as you know what you’re measuring, and you’re sure it’s having an impact,” Green says. “The biggest mistake is tracking the wrong data, or the wrong key performance indicators in business.”

 

In addition to tracking the right KPIs, Green says it’s crucial that great managers, like great coaches, create an honest dialogue to really understand how data has an impact on performance.

“From a coach’s perspective, it’s crucial to be able to say ‘this is what I’m seeing’ and to be able to ask the rowers what they’re feeling and understand their answer,” Green says. “Because without knowing what they’re feeling, they’ll come at it from the wrong point of view.”

Giving business a sporting chance

The deputy dean of the University of Sydney Business School, Professor John Shields, has spent a lot of time researching successful management techniques, and agrees that there several powerful parallels between the sporting and business community.

“It’s more than just a metaphor – a lot of contemporary management techniques borrow heavily from sports management,” Shields says. “Game strategy, iteration, and the ability to recognise and build on your strengths while you target the weaknesses of your competitors, this all comes from the sporting field.”

Like Green, Shields emphasises the importance of quality data collection to measure and track this process of continual improvement.

“The old adage of ‘you get what you measure’ is dead true in both business and sport,” Shields says. “But in this case it’s often easier in sport to identify what is a valid performance indicator and what isn’t.”

While the main focus of elite sports appears to be on winning, Shields believes one of the most powerful lessons business people can learn from elite athletes is the ability to lose. “There’s a lot to be learned from the resilience of sports teams and their capacity to recover from a setback, learn from failure and get back on the field,” he says.

Shields believes sports management can have the greatest impact on business in the area of team dynamics. He points out that businesses tend to struggle to manage their “internal losers”, while sports teams are adept at ensuring the star players share their skills and help to motivate other team members.

“The idea is to ensure that everyone works together to ensure the high performers achieve those results,” Shields says. “It’s important to inspire the whole team to cooperate in that process.”

Trust, data, strong communication, capacity to share success and recover from failure are as important to highly functioning teams of elite athletes as they are to a ballet company or orchestra.

Single-handedly, neither the coach nor the athlete can get the best performance, and without talking to and trusting each other, you cannot achieve anything at all.

Sharing success

As the executive director of the Australian Ballet, Libby Christie is acutely aware of parallels between managing high-performing athletes and high-performing business people, as she is simultaneously responsible for both.

“The Australian Ballet is a large team of many different professional experts, including dancers, medical, wardrobe, production, marketing and many other teams,” Christie says. “We all work together and strive for excellence on and off the stage. We share a common goal and measure of success – that extraordinarily successful performance.”

Having come from a corporate background prior to becoming involved in arts management in 1998, Christie has a dual focus on commercial success and artistic integrity, and says healthy, engaged employees underpin both.

“We take great care of each individual so the team can work at optimal level,” she says. “Supporting our people to reach their potential in the workplace means greater success for the company by every measure. Equally important is the need to provide opportunities and keep the team engaged.”

Christie says the Australian Ballet adopts a number of measures to ensure there is a sense of equality between the principal dancers and ballet corps. Dancers train together daily, rehearse, perform and tour together in an effort to create what Christie describes as a “rich and collaborative learning experience for all dancers”, regardless of career stage.

This process of ensuring entire teams contribute to and share in the success of the lead performers is among the most important lessons business can learn from sports management, according to Green.

“Good sporting teams have a healthy competition where they push each other to reach their full potential,” he says. “This is only possible where the leadership is based on a strong moral compass which is focused on positive outcomes rather than just winning.”

 

In summary

  • Great managers, like great coaches, need to conduct honest dialogues with their team
  • Sport management techniques may not only help business teams to win, they can also help business teams learn to lose
  • The capacity to share success and recover from failure is fundamental to the success of both elite sporting and business teams
  • Data analysis is fundamental to the success of sporting and business teams, as long as the data capture is well designed

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4 min

Why Sharing Matters

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Why Sharing Matters

Discover how to boost productivity and security by unlocking creative ideas within your organisation.

Idea in brief

We look at simple ways large organisations can boost creativity by using technology to encourage a culture of knowledge sharing, and enhance security at the same time.

Senior executives can benefit enormously from open communications with staff across the company. Sharing information openly regarding trends, observations and ideas enables senior managers to pick up on innovative new concepts.

This is why creating a knowledge-sharing culture is so important. Not only does it provide a steady source of new business ideas, it also encourages staff to work together more effectively.

“C-suite executives are light years removed from the coalface and don’t know how things are done on a day-to-day basis, so they need to be inclusive and engaging,” says demographer and senior partner at KPMG, Bernard Salt.

 

In response to this intellectual isolation, Salt, who founded KPMG Demographics in Australia, has created mechanisms to capture and share ideas throughout the organisation. Drawing on the idea of crowdsourcing – soliciting ideas and content from a large group of people – Salt has assisted in creating a global corporate intranet to facilitate ideas sharing.

“It is extraordinarily useful if you are working on a project, so you have access to the latest trends and expertise of 155,000 people in 155 countries,” Salt says. “It is the role of management to provide the network to facilitate such conversations and cultivate collaborative knowledge and sharing.”

Technology plays a crucial role in collecting organisational knowledge – it is the tool by which that information is accumulated. However, the company culture plays a fundamental role in creating the opportunity and impetus for the sharing of ideas.

Creating the right environment

Data protection is an important consideration in a culture of sharing, according to David Shephard, general manager for market development within Telstra’s Security Services Division.

Shephard says that although a sharing environment can expose organisations to increased risk, it also encourages companies to develop a deeper understanding of their data profile and understand what information is of most value, and why. It is also to understand who else might benefit from having that data, and how.

‘One thing about digital data loss is that you typically don’t notice something’s gone missing until a third party informs you, or your valuable IP turns up elsewhere,” Shephard says. “Cyber risk to Businesses is real, but not new. An effective way to improve security and reduce risk is to educate users about the value of the information they access so they can be more aware, vigilant and make better choices in how they handle and share data’.

But rather than restrict access to data and potentially impact on productivity, Shephard says a key role of IT is to enable the business by seeking ways to promote collaboration and make it possible for Information to be shared in a safe and managed way.

“Organisations should focus on securing their most valuable information and manage who has access to it in order to facilitate safe sharing,” says Shephard. “It’s important to understand that bad things can happen, either from outside criminal action or by insiders being careless, and to take reasonable steps to protect data wherever possible and ensure responsibility and awareness among all users remains high on the agenda. It’s not only the job of IT to prevent data loss; everyone needs to play their part.”

Set thinking free

Once a strong data security background is in place, companies can create mechanisms to facilitate the transfer of information in different directions, a source new ideas from staff, suppliers, customers and partners.

This is what Salt refers to as the “festival of left-field thinking”, a process that actively encourages staff to share ideas, then adopts mechanisms to pinpoint which ideas could be effective and which can be discarded.

“Thousands of ideas will be generated and for every 100 there will be one or two really innovative ideas,” Salt says. “It could be as simple as moving the photocopier or only having one waste bin between two people.”

Salt cites supermarket shelf-fillers as an example. He says Census figures reveal that between 2006 and 2011, about 6000 positions were shed. “The reason is the way products are being manufactured and distributed – display-friendly packaging has reduced the number of fillers needed.”

It is the role of management to provide the network to facilitate such conversations and cultivate collaborative knowledge and sharing.

Display-friendly packaging – whereby shelf-fillers simply take the top off the box and it’s ready to slide into a shelf – is a great example of an idea generated via crowdsourcing ingenuity.

This suggestion, which came from the supermarket “coalface” and was passed on to packaging manufacturers, fundamentally changed the time and workforce required to move goods from pallet to shelf, Salt says.

By integrating a sharing ethos into the company culture, he adds, companies obtain access to streams of knowledge that are directly relevant to how the organisation interacts with staff and customers.

A simple test, according to Salt, is for management to adopt a technology platform that facilitates ideas sharing, then ask staff “to suggest one idea to improve operational efficiency”. In a large organisation this would generate tens of thousands of simple ways to improve productivity from the very people with direct experience of the business.

As a result, products are better designed and processes more efficient as a culture of knowledge sharing unlocks innovative ideas.

 

In summary

A knowledge-sharing culture :

  • encourages staff to work together more effectively
  • turns employees into a company’s competitive advantage
  • is facilitated through technology
  • requires strong senior management support
  • improves employee engagement and retention
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3 min

Chief Digital Opportunity

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Chief Digital Opportunity

A chief digital officer can create a powerful strategic link between IT and business, and deliver excellent outcomes across the organisation.

Idea in brief

Chief digital officers are still the new kids on the corporate block, and looking to chalk up some wins. We investigate how CDOs are adding value to corporations and government departments, and look at the most effective reporting structures to support the role.

Technology magazine Wired called 2014 the “Year of the Chief Digital Officer” (CDO). Technology group Gartner says that within the next 12 months, 24 percent of companies will have a CDO, calling it the “most strategic role this decade”. Still the “new kid” in the C-suite, chief digital officers are still struggling to figure out where they fit and what they are supposed to do.

Moreover, the role’s impact and capacity to provide strategic advantage are directly related to how the CDO remit is defined.

What is a CDO?

Brisbane City Council was only the second city in the world – after New York – to appoint a CDO. Cat Matson landed the role thanks to a solid marketing and small business background. She reports to the chief executive of Brisbane Marketing, the city’s economic development board, which is responsible for promoting Brisbane and plotting its prosperity.

 

“My role is one of influence and dot connecting,”says Matson. “So when I hear other senior executives talk about an initiative or program, I’ll see the opportunities for digital adoption or advancement.”

In a fast-evolving digital environment, tech-savvy CDOs are often recruited to transform an organisation. Their role is strategic and customer-focused. But to perform effectively, they need to be integrated within senior management and given the necessary resources.

William Confalonieri, CDO of Deakin University in Melbourne, sees himself as an agent of change. “You’re helping the business reinvent itself for the connected generation and driving innovation in an age where digital disruption is changing everything,”he says.

CDOs should promote a knowledge-sharing culture. Within organisations, they relate in various ways to more conventional senior executives – ideally working closely with chief information officers, chief operating officers and chief marketing officers. “Cross-pollination is key,” says Matson.

CDOs combine digital and strategy

This description rings true with Gerd Schenkel, executive director of Telstra Digital, who believes the CDO role is one which can combine an organisations’ operational objectives and digital initiatives. He says the role of the CDO has become increasingly important because the digital-first approach, which underpins transformation within many organisations, requires a highly strategic lead.

“Telstra has pursued a structured digital agenda over the last three years, rebuilding and extending its digital channels,” Schenkel says. “We believe that digital transformation and operational accountability provide important synergies.”

However, the power and strategic impact of the role are deeply connected to funding, staff levels and the reporting structure. There is a risk of the CDO becoming simply a meaningless sideshow in organisations in which the role was created merely to give the impression that a business “takes digital seriously”.

You’re helping the business reinvent itself for the connected generation and driving innovation in an age where digital disruption is changing everything.

Confalonieri, the only CDO of an Australian university, has qualifications in computer science, economics and business, and is passionate about the transformative nature of his role.

“You need to understand all the dimensions of the business and be a rounded professional who is across many disciplines,”he says. “You need to be a big-picture thinker and a visionary. You also need really good people skills in order to influence and change culture and bring everyone along with you.”

Becoming part of the team

Matson believes the CDO role will ultimately become standard. She says it is best designed as a generalist role – a C-suite position that looks strategically at the way technology delivers on business and customer requirements.

She says the rest of the C-suite is focused on their particular disciplines. “You need that CDO who is a generalist, with the digital understanding at a strategic and business level, to oversee what’s going on,”she says.

The CDO will eventually become obsolete, Matson predicts. “I don’t want to put myself out of a job too soon, but I’m really looking forward to the day when we stop talking about digital as something new.”

 

Chief digital officers:

  • Are playing an increasingly important role in a number of industries because of the need to connect technology with business and customer requirements
  • Often form a connection between the marketing and IT departments, and play an important strategic role connecting IT with business outcomes
  • Need to be strategic thinkers who understand all facets of a business and have excellent leadership skills
  • Can transform an organisation and extract maximum benefit from the opportunities of digital technology
  • Are not always sufficiently resourced

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2 min

Gamification for Good

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Gamification for Good

Discover how to boost productivity and security by unlocking creative ideas within your organisation.

Idea in brief

We look at simple ways large organisations can boost creativity by using technology to encourage a culture of knowledge sharing, and enhance security at the same time.

Big organisations need big ideas when it comes to finding creative ways to engage stakeholders. It’s a challenge faced by not-for-profit World Vision, Australia’s largest charitable group. With a staff of 22,500 working in communities across more than 90 countries, the organisation raises $1.5 billion every year thanks to the generosity of about 400,000 Australians.

Generosity, however, cannot be taken for granted, which means World Vision needs to come up with creative techniques to stay at the forefront of public engagement. It’s a challenge World Vision manager of business technology Andy Barker, took to the Fast Solution Hub at Vantage™, Telstra’s annual landmark business event experience that enables customers to connect, collaborate and create.

 

“The problem we took to the Fast Solution Hub was ‘How can we rethink our retail space to better engage children and families?’” says World Vision manager of business technology Andy Barker. “We’ve got about 60 retail locations around the country, but you’ve probably seen when somebody’s asking for a donation, people just walk right around!”

Telstra’s Fast Solution Hub program drew on the skills and expertise of Telstra tech staff, and technology partners to rapidly design and develop solutions to customer challenges.

Barker needed something that would actually draw people into conversations with World Vision sales representatives in shopping centres. The starting point was to use technology to capture the attention of children, so as to create an opportunity for parents to also engage.

“We ran through a bunch of different ideas on the software and a few different iterations but we ended up with a game at Vantage™,” says Barker. “Using footage of children dancing from a World Vision project in Africa, and Microsoft’s Kinect software, the team created an interactive experience that could place children among their developing world peers to dance along with them.”

World Vision is far from alone in using game-based outreach. More than 70 per cent of Forbes Global 2000 companies are thought to be using gamification for marketing and customer retention. With the proliferation of devices such as smartphones and tablets facilitating games and similar interactive media, there is great scope to inject a little play into the work of customer relations.

You’ve probably seen when somebody’s asking for a donation, people just walk right around! So we were looking for something more engaging.

The solution was built within a 16-hour “hackathon” program as part of the event. As well as the gamified experience, the solution also creates personalised Christmas cards, and has formed the basis for further development work between World Vision and Telstra.

“The Fast Solutions Hub program allowed us to channel a start-up culture with innovation and rapid prototyping together with our customers and partners,” says Andrew Ward, Marketing Group Manager – Enterprise Solutions, “I know the experience has really captured the hearts of those involved – working for such great causes, it isn’t hard to see why.”

According to Barker the game was successful in enabling kids to come to grips with the realities of life for those in developing countries and to appreciate some of the difficulties they face in finding clean water.

“The game involved a virtual water pump: up to six kids compete with each other to see who can pump the fastest,” says Barker. “Once five litres of virtual water have been drawn, the pumps dispense facts about water use in the developing world.”

Barker hopes the games will evolve based on feedback during public exposure at the trial sites in two Westfield shopping centres.

“Our plan is to do that over our Christmas delivery period,” Barker says. “Depending on whether we’re successful we’ll look at how we scale this out to all our other retail stands for other campaigns next year.”

 

In summary

  • Gamification offers an effective medium for development and experimentation in corporate communications
  • Gamification creates a high level of engagement with the target message
  • Rapid development “hackerthons” are effective ways to create innovative approaches to genuine challenges
  • Rapidly developed prototyping is the first step in an iterative process

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2 min

Have A Job, Will Share

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Have A Job, Will Share

Job sharing is making its way into senior ranks and complex roles such as those in the professional services.

Idea in brief

Job sharing is an effective way for professional services to attract highly skilled staff who are not willing or able to work full time. We look into the structures and processes that make job sharing a winning approach.

It has long been used as a recruitment tool and part of a flexible approach to working; however, job sharing is also enabling companies to attract and retain highly qualified and experienced professionals.

A swath of predominantly female job sharers is working its way up the ranks of corporate Australia – and these women are forcing a rethink of the types of roles that lend themselves to job sharing.

This is definitely the case for Australia’s most powerful part-timers: duo Melinda Chaponnel and Sarah Bailey began their job-sharing career in 2012 at National Australia Bank. They are now at Australia Post: Chaponnel and Bailey share the title of general manager, Finance.

Job sharing is also a good way to build a pipeline of senior women in the business.

It was luck more than anything that brought them into the same role at NAB. Both had been at the bank for some time and applied for the same role. Showing remarkable foresight, their manager suggested they put forward a business case for a job-sharing arrangement.

Flexible work specialist Penny Holt of Seed Recruitment & Search says it’s worth the effort for large businesses to look for recruits such as Chaponnel and Bailey.

“It is hard to find people with complementary skills who can communicate well and work well together,” she explains. “They also need to be able to put their ego aside, share the ups and downs of the job, and take joint credit and responsibility.”

The skills required to operate effectively in a shared role are also the ones broadly prized across the business. Although job sharing can be complicated, it opens up companies to recruiting more experienced and talented staff, Holt says.

“There needs to be a good structure and agreement in place in advance,” she says. “There are the drawbacks such as how to manage leave, what if one person performs well and the other doesn’t, and how to end the job share, but these can be overcome.”

Part of the challenge, according to Holt, is that often job-share roles are created as as a reaction: offered as a job share only because they could not otherwise be filled. She says it’s better for organisations to structure job sharing into their overall recruitment strategy, before recruitment becomes an issue.

 

“Often organisations only look at job share when they find it hard to attract talent to a certain position, so they resort to hiring someone on a part-time basis as they are desperate,” Holt explains.

“Companies should contemplate job sharing more often as it is also a good way to build a pipeline of senior women in the business.”

By creating job-share structures within recruitment, businesses can tap into a talented pool of mostly senior women who may otherwise leave the corporate world if they cannot not secure a flexible role.

Moreover, Holt points out that job sharing opens up a rethink of structures and position descriptions to make certain roles more effective through sharing.

“It comes down to job design and management and thinking more broadly about a job,” Holt says.

 

In summary

Job sharing:

  • can open the doors to a pool of senior candidates who would otherwise leave the workforce
  • is most effective when built into the HR strategy rather than created as a reaction to staff shortages
  • is most effective when good structure and arrangements are settled prior to the role commencing
  • is most effective for jobs with clear, measurable outcomes
  • boosts productivity when the job sharers have complementary skills

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