Uncovering an Ideas Culture

HoverBoardAs you may know, I’ve recently started a new job. As much as I had not been looking for a job, those close to me knew that whatever my next role was going to be, it was going to be something totally different from I’d been doing over the past few years. While I have been lucky in my career in that I have had very diverse roles, they have all been in the property and construction industry. Looking back, although my early roles were very technical and my industry is about ‘bricks and mortar’ there has been one consistent theme which most of us take for granted. Every role included a 100% interaction with people. It’ sounds obvious but many people, especially in technical roles don’t give this part of their role the focus it needs.

My new role is for a world leading design house who are passionate about designing the world’s best places, places people love. My title includes the word ‘knowledge’ in it. Basically I am the head of knowledge, well at least on my business card. But what the hell does that mean?

Business titles have always intrigued me, enough to make me write a blog a few years back on what they can be perceived to mean, you can read more about that here and since starting this new role I get a lot of comments asking me to download my ‘knowledge’ there and then! People seem to think the head of knowledge should be an oracle, almost a prophet!! I must say it has intrigued people about what I do, and to be honest I’ve spent the past few weeks thinking about what my role really is all about and what my team and I are going to achieve.

What I can say, is that it is going to be bloody exciting. I have the privilege of leading a team of extraordinary people, people with Masters Degrees and PhD’s, some with more than one. However, my job is not to outsmart them in their fields of specialism. My job is to make it possible for my team to shine, be better than they believed they could be, spread their wings, to nurture, encourage their ideas, to provide an incubator for us to define and understand the issues of our clients and then come up with kick arse solutions to solve them.

I believe the construction and property sector is ripe for “disruption”. While I am not a fan of that word, our industry is a lagging industry in many ways and we will see the effects of Moores Law really take hold over the coming years and I believe our industry will change quickly and radically. Obvious areas that will affect us include, virtual reality, augmented reality, 3D printing, Building Information Modelling (BIM), drones will replace tower cranes Watch here and maglev lifts will revolutionise vertical transportation and give us horizontal transportation within buildings, very Harry Potterish! Like this

Underlying to all of these ideas though, are people.

Last week I was lucky enough to be asked to present on the topic of innovation at an internal two day conference for the next generation of leaders. I think everyone expected me to talk about driverless cars, smart materials and nano technology, some of the amazing ideas that are and will affect our industry and world over the coming years.

Instead I focused on people. It’s the people that dream up the ideas, design the ideas, develop and deliver the ideas, but it’s also people who have to embrace the ideas and adapt to a world that is changing so fast around us. So in my opinion, the question of innovation and the freedom and opportunity to think and develop ideas comes down to the culture we live and work in, especially a culture of trust.

I’ve been a leader of amazing teams and people for 15 years now, and the 15 years before that I was led by amazing leaders, so I believe I’ve picked up a thing or two about good leadership. As Peter Drucker famously said “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. While developing and living a culture is whole other blog, what I will say is that a culture of trust eats everything! A culture of trust can take a company to the next level, cultivating new ideas and driving innovation. The reason a culture of trust does this is because it says making mistakes are ok, mistakes ensure a quicker learning curve which helps drive innovation and delivers an ideas culture.

Companies who are classed as the most innovative give this trust without question. Companies like Netflix trust their teams to do the right thing, which frees them up to bring ideas to the table. You can read more about that here

With this type of culture trust goes both ways, and that is the key. A company which trusts its team to do right by them and vice versa lays the foundation to succeed in doing some very special things. Netflix have the concept that the more power you give people, the more likely you’ll have a team that take a leadership initiative. More on that here 

So with my team, as with all my teams, trust will be the key to our culture. We will trust each other, celebrate our ideas, encourage seeing them through, and celebrate failure so that we can quickly learn to move to the next iteration or next great idea.

So, I’m now the Head of Knowledge, but this title, my role and my team will evolve into something very exciting over the next 12 months and beyond. We are going to stretch the way we think about issues, the way we uncover problems, the way we solve problems and the way we come up with new ideas and innovative solutions. We are going to achieve these amazing things by ensuring that we live by culture of trust in our team. So watch this space and follow our journey as we achieve something very special.

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