PPP025 Feeding acorns
Roger has vast experience in corporate as an executive as well as experience being an entrepreneur.
Here follows a transcription of the interview word for word as talked….
Roger: But I had a great thing the other day from a friend of mine. He was a senior pilot instructor with a commercial airline, and he said to me in his early days, he realized he really wasn’t, he wasn’t being very successful. And he couldn’t work out why. And he realised that what it was, he was micromanaging these pilots. Um, and he said, I came to realise that what you need to do is to allow people to fail safely. And then, and of course flying a airline that’s really important but that applies to all of us I think. If you’re a leader, you should be allowing all your people to be in the position where they can fail, but where there’s a safety net, so it doesn’t matter too much.
ROGER: If you micromanage them … micromanage them you’re not helping them. And frankly, you’re not helping you or the business, cause that isn’t where you should be. You should be up in your helicopter, as I say looking over the horizon and looking down at your business and seeing how you can, how simple business is. Cause it, cause it is you know.
WILMIEN: I think ja, you’re right. Um, there’s a few comments I want to make on that. My father always said when he was in, in his job, that he always had to train the next person to do his job as well as he does, otherwise you will never be promoted to the next job. And I thought wow that, that actually makes sense. And, and that’s a type of delegation, only delegate and … about it, but train the person that you’re delegating so that they can take that full responsibility in a safety way. But ja… you know the corporate culture is not always good at this fail safely place.
Roger: No, it isn’t.
Wilmien: Because as soon as you fail, it will definitely be in your performance management…
Wilmien: And it will influence merits. And there’s not a lot of companies that are willing to take the risk to…
Wilmien: To allow the employees to fail.
ROGER: Yeah, and you see that leads to something else Wilmien. Indeed I, I talk about this. You know I said about, technology arriving in eye… eye watering speed. And what I’m meaning by that is all this digital stuff. And it’s a whole new world in the sense that most of it is free or very cheap.
ROGER: There’s tons and tons and tons of it. And when you think about it what I believe we all need is a culture in our business, is actual toleration of failure. Because we want, we want to try this stuff. Let’s give this a go and see if it works or not, um for our business. And it might not. Now that is counter-intuitive. As you were sort of suggesting just now. And, and it’s one of the reasons why I am starting to see, some small businesses starting to run rings round big corporations. Because big corporations are having trouble… You know they have got so much inertia and you know you have to have a business case and this, that, and the other. I heard the, one of the founders of Spotify speak recently in Sweden and it was fascinating. Because basically Spotify is all based upon teams of people, who just come together regularly. There’s not even a leader in the team. Who just shoot the breeze about ideas for the business. They then agree those that they are going to pursue. They then pursue them, and they have something like an 80% failure rate but the massive success of Spotify came from the 20% that was successes from that. And I suspect that’s how we’ve all got to be in time.
WILMIEN: Definitely. And, and for me that was a major challenge walking out of corporate, because failure was frowned upon. And now as an entrepreneur, I have to fumble to find the thing that works but it will take a lot of failures. But I heard a friend say oh is it you who told the story, someone I Recently heard telling the story where the sales guy said, he got the award for being the biggest sales person and then he said I get the award for being the biggest failure. Because I had to fail so many more times to get so many more sales.
ROGER: Sure, sure.
WILMIEN: And what a brilliant point that was for me as well. Because we frown upon it but if we can make it work at the end and, and not get stuck in the rut of failing on the same thing the whole time.
ROGER: Yeah indeed.
WILMIEN: But, but failing on new things… And I think when you talk about having a fail safety net, also to decide within the business what is nonnegotiable. Maybe things like um, stealing from the business, that’s not a failure that we will tolerate ever. That is, that is just not ethically correct…
ROGER: Sure, sure, sure…
WILMIEN: But within ethically correct behavior failure must go and we need to teach our children. And I’m really trying with my children now, to teach them already that it’s not how well you do the first time you do that. It’s not whether you failed the first time, it’s whether you become better at what you’re doing the next time.
ROGER: Yeah, and I guess what goes with that Wilmien doesn’t it was, it is much, much, much better to take the wrong decision than no decision.
Roger: Because you can deal with that. But, but inactivity you know it is death as well. And again, particularly with the speed that things are happening now. And that’s something that I pick up and that’s one of the great values I get from travelling the world. You know because, what I, what I love in the developing world, you know I’m always speaking to chief executives. In the developing world they listen to me, they make a judgement as to whether what I’m saying makes sense for them or not and if it does they do it. They don’t prevaricate, they get on with it.
ROGER: And I come back to Europe in particular, and I give chief execs that I meet here a really hard time. Because they prevaricate. You know something like as simple as, I ask, I always ask a room full of CEOs’, who’s, who’s got an app, a company app? And in Europe I have never had more than 30% of the room put their hand up and say we’ve got a company app. In Ethiopia last year 80% of the room put their hand up and said well why wouldn’t you?
ROGER: You know all the stats show that if you’ve got an app, it is likely to increase the sales of your business, why wouldn’t you. And they’re dead right. But you, but we can find, you can always find a reason not to do it. You know, to put a business case forward to have a company app is probably exceptionally difficult. Cause you’ve got no idea what it’s going to do for you.
WILMIEN: Because most business cases say, what is your ROI, and your ROI must be above 15 or 20 or whatever the company is percent.
WILMIEN: But with an app it’s very, very difficult to predict, what the ROI will be. But ja, probably those that have done that are very happy with the ROI they got, that they would never have predicted. How well that would go in the business case. And that’s interesting.
ROGER: Sure, sure. I mean there’s something else if I may Wilmien which I think is relevant to today. And I’ve talked about the technology bit and all that. But um but something else that I see now in the really exceptional, the companies that are really winning, of any size in any sector. Is that, everybody in the company is enabled to take initiative. It’s that word again. And, and to come up with ideas, why not this, why not that. And let me just give you an example if I may. I mean, I mean this isn’t a company but nevertheless. You know what a QR code is?
WILMIEN: Yes, yes.
ROGER: You know these, these, ja sure these… QR codes are free and, and you point your smart phone at it, every smart phone’s got a QR reader. And generally speaking if you ask someone what it’s for, they say ah well it takes you to a website. And if you were to say well, you know, so where would, who’s, who’s job is that? Oh, it’s sales and marketing. You know, and that’s one of the problems I’m seeing by the way. This technology it’s, it’s assumed it goes in to one area you know. Sales, sales and marketing in that case. And most people in the West would go, yeah we tried it but yeah it doesn’t do very much.
ROGER: In Japan, I just love this. In Japan um, dementia patients, like anywhere else in the world, go walk about. And sometimes forget where they are.
ROGER: So this one region of Japan, do you know what they’re doing? One of the people who worked there. I think it was one of the nurses. Who worked, in this, in this dementia home. Came up with the idea, once every 3 weeks they are Super Gluing a Qr code on to the thumb nail of each of their patients. They’ve gone out to the whole community and said, if you find someone wondering about a bit lost. Check the QR code and bring, that will give you the address and bring them home would you please.
WILMIEN: That’s brilliant.
ROGER: For me, that is an incredible use of technology. It’s not super sexy, it’s not super clever, it’s not super complex. But isn’t that what we want everyone in our company thinking like. Say, how about doing this? What about this? And if we had time I could tell you that in Lahore, which has become a center of app development, I go to Pakistan quite a lot, they have reduced the number of cases of Dengue fever a year. Which is a really nasty disease. From 60 thousand a year in Lahore down to about a hand full, every single year. The only reason that’s happened is because a couple of young people designed a really, really simple app. That’s the only reason it’s gone from 60 thousand to half a dozen. That’s the way we need our people to be thinking.
WILMIEN: Ja, because people are so scared robots are going to take over our, our work and things. And yes, robots are going to take over a lot of the, the um repetitive work out there.
WILMIEN: But the one thing that will make humans invincible, or… will, will always have humans in demand is initiative.
ROGER: That’s right.
WILMIEN: Because you cannot programme, or I don’t think that you can programme yet, fortunate, I should never say never ne. But that is something that makes humans…
ROGER: I agree…
WILMIEN: That makes us different than anything else.
ROGER: It’s initiative and, and care. You know. You listen to Graeme Codrington, of Tomorrow Today, and, and, and he’ll say doctors, you know doctors in the future, doctors will not be diagnosing, doctors will not be prescribing, because it’s easier done by a computer. What the doctors are going to be able to do in the future is that they haven’t got time to do at the moment, was the care side, the human side.
ROGER: And that’s got to be good hasn’t it.
WILMIEN: Another question. I see under your values, one of them are feed acorns? Now that really interested me a lot. So I wanted to ask you what do you mean by feed acorns?
ROGER: Well, it’s really big companies come from small ones. You know it’s, we’ve talked, we’ve used the word entrepreneur an awful lot, so already today and that’s what I’m meaning by it. Because um every… I mean life cycles are much shorter now of businesses than they ever were before. And if we can feed, if we can help people who are starting out, then there has got to be of great value to, to everybody. And I just see that as something we ought to do. I think it’s something that every CEO ought to do. You know it should be, it should go with the job. That as part of what you are doing as a CEO, is actually you help entrepreneurs. Um, and if I may I’m, I’m really excited cause it’s, it’s only happened very recently but um, there’s an organization called Africa First. Um, which has been set up in recent times, um it’s got sponsorship and support. And it’s all about helping entrepreneurs right across Africa. Um, and literally in the last 3 weeks, I’ve had the honour to be appointed a supervisory board member. And there’s a summit is in Cape Town in November and I’m going to be speaking at it. But I’m really excited about that, because that is all about feeding acorns. That is the “raison d’etre” for the organization and therefore, I want to be associated with it.
WILMIEN: Yes, an acorn becomes the most beautiful oak tree.
ROGER: That’s right.
WILMIEN: So there is, if you cultivate that seed, there’s great potential locked up in that seed, that can be activated.
Wilmien: I love that, now I’m very excited that, that’s cool. And yes, everyone in South Africa must try to see if they can get to that summit in Cape Town. Think that will be incredibly interesting and it’s always wonderful listening to you speak, very motivational. Note South Africans.
ROGER: One of the things I found working with chief executives, as extensively as I do. They really, really don’t want me to be saying to them, well you could do this or you could do that. They want me to be opinionated. Which isn’t difficult for me and they want me to poke them. And I do, The more I poke them, the more provocative I am I find with chief executives, the more they like it. Because probably no one else is you know.
WILMIEN: Yes, yes.
ROGER: And, and I just say well this is what you do. I mean for example, I actually say those sales managers are useless. And the whole room always sits up and goes oh, what do you mean, you know I’m a sales manager or I was a… and then I explain what I’m talking about. But you know, I say it because I feel it. Now, yes I’m of course going over the top.
WILMIEN: And it’s quite delightful to have someone that’s really certain about something. I think people crave for certainty, in this uncertain world.
ROGER: Yeah, I think, I think that’s probably true. And, and it’s, and it’s back to this wording, and it’s so easy to prevaricate. And it really doesn’t get you anywhere. Again I’m just talking business for the moment, but prevarication really doesn’t get you anywhere. You know by the time you’ve finally made a decision, the competition has already done it, and got on with it. You know you’ve, you really do need to be fleet of foot in terms of your decision making, more now than ever before. Could I just, may I just say that I, I only do my newsletter 4 times a year. If anyone would like it, there’s a button on the website they can click to subscribe to the newsletter. As I say it’s just 4 times a year, if it might be of interest.
WILMIEN: Yes, and it’s an interesting read always ne. It opens up our eyes and our minds. I’ve just read the latest one. And Roger on your website there’s 2 books as well. Do you quickly want to tell us more about the 2 books that you have written?
ROGER: Yes, yes I’ve only written 2 books, because I prefer speaking to writing I suppose. But they do reflect um, absolutely what I’m about. So they’re, they’re fairly short books, but the second book, Win, which is my latest book um, is actually a 3 dimensional book. Um, which people find interesting. I’m very proud of the fact, I’ve now got 45, 4 and 5 star reviews on Amazon. And someone actually wrote, this is the future of books. Because what I’ve done back to the QR codes we mentioned. So through out the book there’s QR codes that take you to white papers, they take you to videos, they take you to animations. There’s a free app that comes with the book. That allows you to do business health checks regularly for your business. So, I describe it as being a 3 dimensional book, you know. Um, not just 2 dimensional. And I actually say to people, what about your sales literature, what about your operating manuals, why are they 2 dimensional? Why not make them 3 dimensional? You know, whether you’re talking, these days you’d be talking augmented reality and all kinds of things. There’s all kinds of ways of imparting information better than we have in the past. And, and I, I always do or look at research, and there’s some fascinating research about augmented reality. For example, firstly, in teaching children to learn maths. And augmented reality improves learner retention by a massive 18%. They did it also with car mechanics, and there the reten… the learner retention was 14%.
ROGER: So we should be using these stuff, it’s amazing. Um, so you know I love all this. There is so much out there, um, and there’s an awful lot that is by no means being used to it’s potential, and we need to. You know.
ROGER: One of them is, why should a book that is a reference type book, be 2 dimensional? Or, or as I say equally with any other sort of information you’re passing on, use every medium you can, so that people can use the medium that suits them to learn.
WILMIEN: I love that. So your book is more a summary of all your ideas around that, and if people want to dig in in to a very certain part of what you’ve summarized for them, they can go and they can go get the detail when it suits them. When there’s one subject that’s more interesting, they can go, then they don’t have to read absolutely through everything.
ROGER: Exactly yeah.
WILMIEN: When they have a chance That’s brilliant idea.
ROGER: So, so yeah, my first book is called Stay in the Helicopter, not surprisingly and that’s, that’s still the, the, the master class that I run around that is still the most popular one I do. Where I’m really… You know it’s surprising Wil… it’s surprising to me Wilmien. You know the first thing I always talk about is, what’s the purpose of your business, what’s it there for? And you know, I don’t have special vision, I’m high in this helicopter of mine, what’s it there for?
ROGER: And I am still to this day staggered by how many business owners and CEOs’ don’t have an answer to that question. Because for me it’s really simple, if you don’t know where it is you’re trying to get to, how on earth do you stand any chance of getting there.
WILMIEN: Ja. It’s like going on a treasure hunt and there’s no treasure to hunt at the end of the day.
ROGER: Yeah, yeah. And, and to be frank, I know this is a fact now after all these years, if you can get that, that, that purpose nailed, you know half a sentence ideally, no more than that, you stand a much, much better chance of getting there. That is a fact. I would put it as strongly as that.
WILMIEN: No and even if you are slightly off the final target, you are much closer than you would have been, than floating around in the space, crossing fingers ne?
ROGER: Because it means every strategic decision you take in your business, you put across the filter. Is it a step along the way to that purpose, yes or no. And if the answer’s no, you don’t do it.
WILMIEN: Yes, no I totally agree with you on that. And when, when you talked earlier about the helicopter, I always realized and I like to tell people we need to slow down, so that we can speed up. Sometimes it’s a, a strange concept because how can you ask me in this rat race to slow down. But really slow down to get the bigger picture. And then you have time, because then when you run, you run straight. But if we don’t slow down to look at this bigger picture, we run all around and we’re not knowing where we are heading to. And that’s where I am trying coaching is such a great thing.
WILMIEN: Mentoring, to help someone to slow down to think about what they are doing. And then you are much more productive and ja… that 5 minutes you spend, gives you 5 hours at the end of the day. As you said, you ask CEOs’ one day in a week, or one day in a month. But that one day makes the other days so much more efficient hey.
ROGER: Sure. It’s amazing Wilmien I, I had um, an e-mail the other day from someone I didn’t remember. When he e-mailed me he said, this is me being immodest… He said, Roger I just want to say thank you, we’ve just had a record year in the business and that’s down to you.
ROGER: He said I attended, I attended your half day mar… half day master class he said 18 months ago. And what that meant was the quality of thinking I then did about my business was like I had never done before. Thank you.
ROGER: Now you know that’s not me being clever, it is just back to, getting up in the helicopter and thinking simply about your business. Looking at where it is you want to go to, and then going for it. That is sort of all it is really.
WILMIEN: Well done Roger, when are you giving a master class in South Africa on this one?
ROGER: Ah well when someone invites me. But um, I did one or two in the past, but nothing planned currently, but I’m always available.
Wilmien: Make a plan. Roger, thank you so much. I enjoyed this. I can’t believe the time is up already. It was lovely talking to you.
ROGER: Sure me to, I loved it, thank you so much Wilmien. It’s been magnificent. And thank you for enabling it to happen.
WILMIEN: Yes, and we will put all your details on the website.
ROGER: Make sure you’re smiling as often as you can. Make it fun. You spend more time at work awake than you do at home, so enjoy it. Try and enjoy every single moment if you can.
You can learn more about Roger, here:
Send me an e-mail: wilmien.wilmiendavisconsulting.co.za