Thinking differently is simple at the World Business Forum

Thinking differently is simple at the World Business Forum
June 2, 2017 Anne Fulwood

2nd June 2017:  In the communications business we challenge ourselves every day to disrupt the normal. We want to be creative and deliver new ideas that will keep our clients ahead of the competition. This felt very prescient at the World Business Forum, which kicked off in Sydney on Wednesday by asking attendees: “Are you ready to live in a state of permanent beta?”

This was echoed in the first presentation of the day, as we were taken back to an early Apple campaign encouraging viewers to ‘Think Different’. Ken Segall, who worked alongside Steve Jobs for many years as the creative director at Apple’s ad agency, based his talk on the concept of simplicity.

He stressed that being simple is difficult but urged the audience to be a “brutal foe” of complexity. If you can’t fit your strategy on a page, he said, you don’t understand it yourself.

If customers feel they’ve had a simple experience, and there’s a sense of flow because the engagement is seamless, they’ll stay with you. This concept was at the heart of Jobs’ obsession with creating an emotional connection between customers and the product. Apple offered a limited choice of products, focusing on design and functionality with a mantra to avoid mediocrity at all costs. Simple! It even extended into Apple’s corporate culture.

Being open to possibility

Our next speaker was Harvard Professor, Rosabeth Moss Kanter. She called on all of us to step away from old structures, physical or metaphorical, and embrace openness. If you open yourself up to other people and ideas, you can build an ecosystem so you no longer work in a silo.

She argued that we can’t afford to go it alone because the fast pace of disruption has made it more important than ever to learn from each other. She argued that business can use “viral principles” to grow markets – start with your early adopters, engage stakeholders across your ecosystem and allow the snowball effect to spread the word.

If it doesn’t work first time, don’t give up – adapt and adopt an “improvisational theatre” approach to give your idea another go.

The fox and the hedgehog

The fox is always on the move – maybe even on the run – sniffing out every opportunity, no matter how small, with eyes and ears always open. The hedgehog moves slowly, generally in one direction, and lacks agility.

So no prizes for guessing which one our next speaker advised us to copy. Professor Mohan Sawhney leads innovation and technology for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Illinois.

In an environment where change is accelerating, he suggested making lots of small bets, at speed, rather than going “all in” with one big bet. He said big projects slow everyone down and should be broken down into smaller chunks using an agile process that involves skills from across the business. Adopting this culture of “collaborative innovation” enables us to seize on emerging business opportunities.

Sleep on it

The day ended with the wonderful Ariana Huffington, who sold her Huffington Post business to AOL for $US315 million in 2011. She’s since launched Thrive Global to promote health and wellbeing within business leadership.

Ariana’s a self-appointed sleep evangelist, describing stress and tiredness as a global epidemic that costs the US economy $US411 billion in lost productivity every year. Given that people are unable to function effectively when they’re tired, she asked whether it was time to think of sleep as a valuable business metric.

More sleep equals better decisions. The alternative is burnout, which makes it almost impossible to “think differently” and be creative. That struck a chord with this correspondent. After day one of my Ogilvy #Observations, I took Ariana’s advice, disconnected the tech and enjoyed a well-earned sleep.

Written by Anne Fulwood, Media Director opr