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An interview with innovation experts, Limpid & Co
Discussing digital transformation, wellbeing, and culture
Limpid & Co
We're joined today by the founders of Dutch innovation company Limpid & Co. The co-creators behind the organisation, Michiel and Jaspar, are innovation experts that have a special knack for future proofing organisations. Having had the pleasure of hearing them speak in years gone by, we've seen first hand how their approach to problem solving, idea generation, and change has transformed many organisations for the better.
We can all learn from their ability and experience in activating change and affecting revenue performance using a careful combination of strategy, mindset, structure, and innovation. That’s why we wanted to start the year by picking the pair’s brains on the trends they’ve been noticing, how to cope with them, and exactly how cultural organisations can implement the learnings they recommend.
They’re energetic, transparent, and believe in having plenty of fun along the way. We think you’ll love what they have to say… Enjoy!
What is a major trend you see emerging in organisations in the current climate?
Jaspar: In general, we've seen over the last years the convergence of, and the rise of importance of digital, and digital transformation. In that big wave of digital transformation, we see two kind of winners popping out. One of them is the advent of Web3 and the other one is the so called metaverse. Web3 is kind of like the dream of the next version of the internet. Of course, it used to be that one person would just manage the internet, so to say. Then in the end, of course, we’re moving into a market in which users control it, users make money. Hence for example, NFTS, as we all know, especially for the culture and the arts sector, is really relevant. It used to be that when you would buy a piece of art, you make a piece of art you created and then you would sell it, and all the proceeds of the token, of the art, would be delivered or handed over to the one who had actually acquired the piece of art. With the advent of Web3, as we now call this, there's a big move towards the user controlled internet. With this move, artists will have more control over their piece of art and also the future proceeds. So that's one big wave that we see coming. A second big wave, a major trend, and of course everybody is focusing on it right now in the tech sector, but also you can think about telecom, banks, gaming, and everything else, is this meta verse. So this re-emergence of this virtual world. We used to buy things in Second Life with Linden Dollars, for those who remember that - now you'll probably buy things with Facebook Dollars, if they ever make it to a respected coin. You can enter the metaverse, or the Microsoft alternative.
Again, this all looks towards having a digital identity and a digital twin in which you can buy yourself. You create your alternative identity, and they will be partly synchronous, partly totally separate from each other. In general, what we see is that companies are increasingly thinking about digitalisation. AKA in the end focusing more on Web3, user dominated internet, and also more like a virtual version of their identity. Again, having said that, this is a big move - on one side we see in digitalisation, on the other side, we also see the rise of more of a human focus, like "hey, we're in this digital ship, it's this wave that we're entering and we just need to learn how to serve that". So one of the counters could be thinking about what is life to be as a human and what are the ethics of living in this world, especially in the last two years, we have seen a change into that - a change of what has happened, of course, thanks to coronavirus. And this is all about what Michiel is about to say.
Michiel: One of the things that we see in all our clients is that they have to really rethink the way they connect to each other, how they collaborate and how they get and keep their employees on board. This is also called the great resignation with connected staff shortages. So one of the most common questions we get asked today is 'How to deal with it from a standpoint of value?' A lot of companies are reinventing their values and giving new and deeper meaning to what it means to be part of your organisation, even if you're at a distance, which is often the case now, obviously. So how do you stay connected and what do you actually connect to? This means that there's a huge move going on from the values as being something that's on your website and something you aspire to, towards the value being something everybody can subscribe to and really want to get into. We get frequent questions to support companies in how to define true values, which is always done together with all the staff because they have to be shared values and have meaning and practical substance to them.
"A lot of companies are reinventing their values and giving new and
deeper meaning to what it means to be part of your organisation"
So this is one of the great changes we see after, or maybe even during the coronavirus pandemic - that people lost touch and are really looking to reconnect, which links into what Jaspar said about the personal part of the digital transformation. Because we've all been part of remote conferences of working alone from your bedroom, if you're unlucky. So this is all about the human experience that a lot of companies and a lot of organisations, both private and public, really want to get into now.
Jaspar: The interesting thing is 'What defines being human?' So on one side we have this kind of thing of the easiness of still being able to still work from a distance. Imagine 50 years ago when we had this similar kind of coronavirus wave - of course, nobody could have worked, the economy would have halted to a full stop. Nowadays a lot of organisations have been able to survive. Of course, it depends on how you define survival, but it's really interesting to see a lot of good things happening despite the restrictions. The downside of this digital realm of always being connected, is that we did not take time to pause and to take this creative structured approach to ourselves. A lot of us just moved from the old way to the new way just in a digital approach, with old rules that didn’t work in a digital environment. Bound to fail! To avoid a likely disaster, it's really important for most organisations to start to rethink what we are as a coalition of people working together under the same brand. 'Why are we this organisation? Why do we work here? Or what do we want to do apart from having a website?’
Michiel: It turns out that this is all about wellbeing. Work typically and traditionally is something that you go and do somewhere, hopefully in a nice environment. And now what we saw is because we just sort of picked it up and put it on our kitchen table, we find that there's so much social value in working and that it has such a big impact on people's wellbeing. People even get used to the ease of being flexible in work - people really demand more flexibility but they still want to be connected and this ties into wellbeing in a big way.
How can organisations find new ways to cope with the
developing situation, both internally and in the market?
Jaspar: One of the luxuries that we have had as Limpid & Co as an organisation is that we've been able to help out organisations geographically, but also from industry level, from the those years of experience in working in different kinds of sectors from oil, to engineering, to financial, to legal, to the art industry. So we've been able to distil a model that we apply into the different regions and different kinds of clients. This is called the ‘Culture Diamond’. We have identified eight different dimensions - ways of looking at how to practically deal with changes that are happening in your organisation, and how you can then change the culture. Because as the saying goes 'culture eats strategy for breakfast'. Of course it's important to have a strategy and a vision. Of course it's really important for most organisations, but if you don't have the right culture attached to it, you cannot really implement and develop things.
"Of course it's important to have a stategy and a vision...but if you don't have the right culture attached to it, you cannot really implemet and develop things"
What we try to do is for every organisation we try to help them, of course, with the associated problem. Typically right now it's like dealing with this kind of developing situation. So ‘How to reemerge? Will it be like 90% online, or will it be 10% online?’ And so how do you address the challenges from the different kind of perspectives? Typically we choose two or three, the most prominent ones to really take a hands-on approach to try to solve this. To give you three examples, one of them we're doing for a large telecoms company and they have an issue similar to many of these kinds of industries which have been in heavy transition. They used to be a luxury product, like being able to call people and get great margins for delivering this luxury service, but nowadays it’s a commodities product with margins disappearing as snow under the sun. They're trying to find ways to generate new revenues and also keep people motivated to work with them. So one of the things that they asked us to do is to set up a value strategy to help them to build that, to think about how they can build their corporate values, and transform their corporate values into practical business values that their people can apply.
So the means that we’ve taken to achieve that include resources, but have especially focused on motivation, and we’ve provided them with a multiple day challenge around 'How to in daily life and daily business life to apply values for their own ways of working'. That's an example that we've been applying. So instead of creating a very visionary leadership document that must be pushed top-down, we created something specially for the employees that they feel engaged with and really to start understanding for themselves as well 'why do we have this value?' Whether it's courage, or consistency, or whatever kind of words you can imagine as a value. So we try to view it from different perspectives. What do people need? What do people get? Then making a very practical hands on approach for that. For a culture institution, we've been recently developing a game. You use dice for it - you have to bet on the right numbers to appear. Based upon the dice throwing, you come to a certain question in your team, in your group, virtually and physically, you can actually try to understand and get to new kinds of questions which will help you to understand better how to cope with the new changes.
For another one, the last example which might be relevant for some of the institutions we're now thinking of is to develop learning weeks. What we have seen in this kind of renaissance of 'What do we want? What do we get? How can we cope with all this coronavirus? What is normal in this everlasting age of change’. One of the things that we have seen is that it would be good to think about giving people hope by focusing on learning again. So instead of focusing on the negative like 'Hey, we cannot meet up', we help them focus on something positive. If we say let's focus on inspirational moments together which we all together can work upon a specific topic from a learning perspective. Not necessarily by solving it, but more from learning about this. So this is one of the things that we have been working on with several of our clients from a very practical point of view - everybody understands the need for learning new skills to cope in these turbulent times. So in these days when people would feel sad and not feel that comfortable and not that well in themselves, we have noticed that it's good to give them some new kind of ways of hope and just to focus their attention on good things.
This could be doing it yourself, like a 15 step way of doing things. It could be about adding some kind of chance into business life so to say, for example, by focusing on learning. I think that's the takeaway from this for us - we know that you cannot control what's happening outside, but you can control what's happening inside. You can influence that. In the end, having your employees motivated and feeling connected to your organisation - so they don't feel lonely, they feel cohesive. One of the ways of doing that is really addressing culture from a practical perspective.
Michiel: One of the things that we see that really touches there, for instance from this model, is the skills part. Skills are the most practical ones most often. We just assume that people know what they need to do and how to do it. But then we see that from the easy challenges, and gains, and learning weeks that we do, that we can really help them cope with the situation they're in. From there, from a more operational point of view you can often touch on all the other sides of the diamond as well. So as a small example, we've been doing a lot of work on how to do an effective meeting because people are meeting all the time, but they're distracted. So this is a typical example of a skill that we teach.
Jaspar: Maybe connected as well is that we see a lot of interest in the market for thinking about the future of work. So what is the future of work and how can you make this practical? Of course, there's a rising fear and people that say things like “Hey, I'm going to be taken over by a robot or by an algorithm”. And so it might be that some tasks, of course, will be automated or digitalised. It might be that there are some new things required again and of course, the big trend, what does it mean to be human? What value do I add at the table as a human? So we see a lot of need for fun and engaging ways to think about the future work. Change is of course there, we cannot discount that, but we can say "okay, let's try to think about the future in a positive way" - some things maybe will be lost, but many other things will be new. What we see in the end is that the active organisations, and some industries that are faster than the other ones, are actually trying to make this happen and trying to embrace it rather than deny it.
If an organisation was to begin trying to work on this from tomorrow,
what are the 5 most critical things they should take from this?
Michiel: The biggest problem for many of our clients is how to do stuff, how to get going. A lot of our clients, when we come in, they've either had big consulting firms redefining their strategies or even had completely new leadership in to define new direction. But the main question for most of our clients is always how to do this. We've developed this model that we use to design change interventions. If you look at the model here - for most organisations right now, the necessity of changing is quite clear. The whole market has been thrown upside down. People are behaving very differently. So that's usually not a problem. But many of our clients and organisations that we see actually try to copy interventions that they have seen somewhere else, not always understanding the why of the intervention, and that doesn't seem to be very effective. So our advice will always be to do it step by step in a structured approach. If you ask for the five most important things to do, they're actually in the dark blue space here of this nine step process. So we always say start off with really defining what you want to achieve. It might be new ways of working, it might be new offerings, it might be new ways to connect to either your clients or your own employees, but be clear about it.
If you've done that, you will typically see that the people you want to reach are not one group, even within your staff there's going to be people with different preferences, people with different ages, people with different home situations and different jobs, obviously. So it really helps to create, to borrow a marketing term, personas, to really focus the change you want to achieve. And then for each of these personas, you can define what their main challenges are in view of the strategic goal and where you want them to end up in a way that you can be very specific about. This group mainly needs to learn new skills, another group might need more flexibility to work and live in a balanced way. And then finally, and this is one thing that people typically forget, is that you have to define success in such a way that you can measure it that you know when you've been successful. Because obviously it's not always going to work, your transformation or your change, and it's not a problem if it doesn't. But you have to know if it doesn't so that you can move on to do something new.
This is something that we see quite a bit in our client base - that they want a quick fix for everything. And we say 'So how will you know when you've been successful?' And they typically can't always answer that. For instance, if you look at the examples that Jaspar gave. So if we do learning weeks, we can see how many people are involved. And if we do another one, how many people will come back, because then we know that from a motivational standpoint, for instance, we have touched upon the people we like to keep coming back. If we do it again, we can measure the amount of buzz it creates in the company and we can even just do a quick flash survey about if people enjoyed it, if they have learned anything, and if they can put behaviours that they've learned into practice. So that's the fifth and arguably most important step here.
Jaspar: I may be able to add to that. I think in the last 50 years so to say, we have seen a lot of approaches from a top down, over a fully bottom up approach. Top down being like ‘Let's bring in the advisors, create a big plan and then it will trickle down’ or the other way around, which is kind of crowdsourced. What we see is that both ways of implementing or approaching these challenges don't really apply, they don't really fix the things that we need right now. So we take a little bit of a middle ground approach. We could say, let's try to focus on the how. Michiel already mentioned getting a very practical, but also measurable in such a way that we just make it a very practical, solvable solution that both the actual employees and the middle managers governing them engage with. They can both create something together which will help, of course, the leaders in the organisation. Of course it's difficult for the leaders because they need to let go of things and to trust part of the process, especially because we notice from experience or from science, and from all the research we've done, we need to help them nudge things.
Typically the way that it works best is in a playful manner. That's what we strongly believe in to have it kind of like a little bit in a fun way or a little bit of a pleasant way of doing thing. Less of the formal ivory tower kind of way of talking and working. That's of course sometimes a step for leaders to take. But as we see now, it's not the best way forward. Given those five steps, we then say ‘Okay, let's focus a little bit on the middle ground, like middle management and to help them engage employees in a fun way’. And people could say, of course, my humour is not your humour. And some people might say I have no humour at all, that might be true as well. But anyway, it's good that at least with the people that you create this common new language to deal with change, because everybody in a change situation is terrified and it's not the best way. It's more looking at how to de-terrify yourself, and how to de-stress and enjoy it. Again, science tells us that part of it is by laughing. So concluding, brink back the fun in a structured manner…
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