Takeaways from Collision Conference 2018 Reveal the Need for Agility and Collaboration in All Industries
Wow, what a week we had at Collision Conference in New Orleans! At the Coras booth, we met people from all over the world—Nigeria, India, Ukraine, Ireland, Canada, Uruguay—I could go on, but the list could take up most of the page. The thing that really struck me was how brilliant, inventive, and determined everyone was. People from every walk of life were looking for solutions in solving customer problems in unique and creative ways. Whether simple or complex, every entrepreneur at Collision was focused on driving value for their customers (or potential customers).
One of the frequent topics that came up is technology’s role in the workforce of tomorrow: will it augment human work, or will it replace us. I think the answer to that is both. Technology has always had both capabilities, and people will look at historical examples and claim to have crystal ball insights for the future. We moved from place to place on foot; but through innovation, transportation was augmented by planes, trains, and automobiles. The people who were tasked with fanning Roman Senators in those historic murals have been replaced by A/C units.
I fall into the “augment camp,” particularly when it comes to making business decisions. Take, for example, the decision to think of something that has never been done before, make a product, build a company in a new space; all of which are being done by the types of people we met at Collision. That is innovation and ingenuity that is uniquely human, and it is impossibly difficult to predict who will succeed and who will fail, let alone predict the plan of action and decisions along the way. Technology is powerful, but it does not operate in a vacuum. It requires us to strategize, employ solutions, utilize data, and then pivot and adapt as needed.
The same principle which applies to decisions in the marketplace of ideas, applies within a company. We can leverage AI, Big Data, etc. to help enable our decisions, but it can’t make all our decisions for us, nor should we want it to. Can you imagine trying to totally automate the hiring and firing process? An applicant fits all the right criteria on their application, a perfect score, better than all other applicants for the role. The system hires them automatically based on their score, yet they turn out to have zero chemistry with their team members and superiors, dragging down productivity for all. Or a sales person hasn’t closed a deal all month. Close of business 5:00 comes around, last day of the month, still no deal—the decision is automatically made to terminate. A million-dollar purchase order comes in a 5:01, with a note from the customer saying, “sorry for the delay, I had to take my son to the doctor.” Reality is messier than technology can handle without human assessment. Business leaders, managers, and employees at all levels instinctively know this, which is why they rely on technology to inform their decisions, not make all their decisions for them.
But there are ways we can make better decisions. One way is by becoming a truly agile business. This means taking big decisions, initiatives, and projects and breaking them down into smaller, more manageable ones, handled by cross-functional teams. Part of making better decisions involves empowering smaller teams that have been tasked with solving the problem, and enabling them to make the decision. The team engaged in the challenge is, by definition, the one that is the least removed from that challenge. That may seem obvious, but I assure you this is not the norm in most companies today. In most companies, team A discovers an issue. They report it at a weekly meeting to a middle manager. The middle manager reports it the following week to their superior, and so on, until an executive makes a decision. Then the process of meetings happens in reverse. This typically yields a) upset/confused customers b) upset/confused employees c) upset/confused executives d) all of the above. The role of the executive in an agile business becomes much more strategic. They define the broader, strategic initiatives for the company, and enable the teams tasked with execution to execute. This includes enabling those small teams to make decisions, provided they align with the strategic objectives. Turn your company into a marketplace of ideas guided by strategic vision and harness that power.
Technology should allow you to connect Strategic Decisions at the top of your business and execution decisions at the bottom. Agility solutions enable people, teams, and entire businesses to become flexible and responsive. Many of the people at Collision are already buying into agility and are looking for ways to get there. Incorporating technology that augments and enables teams at all levels of the organization is the way to engage and implement agility in order to work smarter and faster. Harness the human microcosms of innovation within your company, and the sky is the limit.
Customers all over the world are leveraging Coras to enable their business, and make it agile. Coras allows you to create high level strategic objectives, break them into smaller objectives and teams, and execute. What's more, if a team comes across a new project or initiative, they can relate it back to an overall objective. As teams iterate and collaborate to get things done, and continue to learn what works the best, they can save best practices as repeatable processes. Ultimately the companies using Coras get accountability - they can exactly who is responsible for what, they see how those mini objectives are progressing, and how those track against the broader objectives. The flip side of greater enablement and decision making for teams is the need for accountability. With Coras, you get the best of both worlds.
“If we can agree that the economic problem of society is mainly one of rapid adaptation to changes in the particular circumstances of time and place, it would seem to follow that the ultimate decisions must be left to the people who are familiar with these circumstances, who know directly of the relevant changes and of the resources immediately available to meet them.” F.A. Hayek