How the lockdown taught us collaboration & other management lessons

Inspiring Stories

07 July 2020

How the lockdown taught us collaboration & other management lessons

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

Unlock 1 has seen many get back to their office spaces and adapt to the new normal of masks and social distancing. It’s a good time to reflect on the many lessons we’ve learnt during the lockdown and how we can apply it to our corporate lives. Sometimes, all it takes for change to take effect is the lack of choice. As we grappled with being locked at home, we geared up to learn new skills, find new ways of entertainment and we collectively managed to remote work effectively. Here’s a look at some lessons we can take back to work with us:

Are we all Digital yet?

Somewhere between forgetting to switch on the mute button and switching off the camera, we all grew up to be digital. The world before the lockdown was divided between the Digital Natives and the Digital not-quite-there-yet. What stopped us from adopting technology which existed to make our lives simpler and help us work more efficiently? And yet, how come when it came to personal usage, we easily figured out Firestick/Chromecast streaming and the latest cell phones? Learning happens out of interest or necessity; and at a company level the interest must trickle top down. The leadership team and managers need to bring in a culture of systemic learning and that begins with them upskilling to lead by example. This serves a dual purpose – one that accepts not knowing everything is normal and second that it’s never too late to learn.

The Key Takeout: For organisations to innovate and evolve, there needs to be a culture of learning. The ‘why fix it if it ain’t broke’ philosophy is the biggest roadblock to innovation.  

Workload equals loads of work?

It’s fascinating how we seamlessly divided house tasks based on innate ability – the younger ones for physically-intense housecleaning, the ones who knew cooking took up kitchen work and the rest did dishes and groceries. Some people rotated duties but each family found its own rhythm. Each person was accountable for their work, knew the others’ tasks and trusted them to do it. Of course, things work differently in the corporate world with its clearly demarcated job profiles and associated qualifications; however, we can take a leaf out of this and relook at how we can assign work beyond qualifications. Align teams to a short-term common goal, clearly define how they’re contributing to it individually and collectively, and acknowledge that effort and result.

The Key Takeout: Working collaboratively by its very nature takes away the sense of ‘it’s not my job’ and builds a system where each one is aware and thus appreciative of the work the others are doing.

Time: Too much of a good thing?

Humans are creatures of habit which is why when faced with what seemed like infinite time, we used it exactly the way we are accustomed to spending it. The workaholics worked, the fitness freaks worked out, TV addicts binged and almost everyone learned to bake! But at some point we got a sense of too much, even if it was something we enjoyed, we started missing the office, the routine. How does this apply in the corporate world? If you let people chill and do what they love for some time, you’ll get them more refreshed and charged up to work rather than restricting them to strictly work during work hours. By forbidding things, we make them more appealing. This is not a carte blanche to slack off but a more lenient work style where half an hour on YouTube or a game of Scrabble is acceptable and doesn’t have to be done behind the boss’ back.

The Key Takeout: If work is no more restricted from 9 to 5, why should fun have set timings? Set boundaries but don’t make work and life mutually exclusive.

Focusing vs flexibility?

The easily distracted, and that’s pretty much all of us, will find a distraction worth their time. Pets and children replaced colleagues, chores replaced coffee breaks and SOs replaced bosses. On the other hand, we were saved from focusing on what to wear, what is she wearing, where to go after work, the meeting that should’ve been an email etc. The lockdown brought home the truth on how much time and energy is wasted on things of little or no significance. Despite the increase in daily chores, the lack of an office environment, and distractions at home; most people reported being more productive while working from home. Should this mean an end to office as we know it? Yes and no. The office as we knew it – singular location, fixed timings, everyone & everyday reporting – needs to give way to a more flexible, work from home and work near home approach. The flexibility may differ between industries, organisations but the core approach needs to evolve.

The Key Takeout: Focus on what’s essential and become a more outcome/goal-oriented workplace. Does it really matter if the person delivers an exceptional presentation wearing trousers or pyjamas?

When the lines between office and home are getting increasingly blurred, there’s merit to introspect and apply learnings from home and family to help teams work better.   The lockdown tested and demonstrated our potential to trust, collaborate and handle a crisis; and it would be a shame to not carry some of this back with us as we head back to office.

Why do Leaders Swear by Thinking Fast and Slow?

Inspiring Stories

27 April 2020

Why do Leaders Swear by Thinking Fast and Slow?

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

According to Daniel Kahneman, human beings have fractional thinking – System 1 and System 2; where System 1 is the gut, intuitive thinking, and System 2 is analytical, problem-solving and reflective decision making. Overall, both aid our judgement, where for some situations system 1 (fast thinking) provides the foundation for System 2 (slow thinking). But in many conditions, these work independently – for example, first impressions are formed solely by fast thinking. However, best decisions are made when both these methods are running simultaneously.

Hence, leaders swear by thinking fast and slow because it provides multiple business advantages such as:

Error Minimisation: Leaders encourage employees to indulge in fast and slow thinking because it reduces errors. If a person applies any of the two independently, there is a higher chance of tilted decisions. For example, when a person thinks too fast, it leads to cognitive biases, leading to erroneous results. For example, A project demands the regional sales of X product. But an employee registers only ‘sale’, conducts a quick search and quotes global sales while providing no figure for region-wide sales.

Enhanced Productivity: When a person effectively balances both slow and fast thinking, productivity rises sharply. This promotes wise thinkers who analyse situations rather than rely on quick judgments. For example, in a team, two employees do not get along and indulge in ruthless competition. A leader, who applies fast and slow thinking, will adopt a sound strategy to form better relations between the two, such as joint mediations or a combined project. But alternatively, in a quick response, if a leader fires the underperformer, it will be a loss to the team.

Rational Decisions: Decision-making is the basis of management and hence, needs to be made rationally. For example, a team needs to vote for a leader. Some employees, instead of carefully assessing the candidates, might make an unreasonable judgement based on superficial qualities. This will lead to the selection of a wrong candidate, which could be avoided through balanced evaluation based on multiple factors, including appearance, attitude, career trajectory, team spirit, etc.

Quick, Calculated Response: Hasty decision making or slow thinking can both result in a disaster independently. Hence, employees need to be quick but also calculated in their responses. Assume a scenario where a client is angry, and the employee reciprocates with the same emotion or worse. In such situations, the employees should be prompt yet calculated with their replies, calm the client and ensure error rectification.

Better Negotiation: For leaders, negotiation is an everyday task. One of the most important factors that can help a leader win a negotiation is how well he/she understands the opponent. The principles of thinking fast and slow help one to better understand the opponent and ultimately win an argument.

Thinking fast and slow advocates a healthy balance of the gut and factual thinking.

How to Harness the Power of Lateral Thinking to Enhance Creativity?

Inspiring Stories

20 April 2020

How to Harness the Power of Lateral Thinking to Enhance Creativity?

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

As working professionals, productivity and creativity come at the apex of keeping a business going. The world out there is competitive, the industry stops for no one, and innovation becomes the key. Therefore, it becomes vital to continually engage with unique techniques to produce out-of-the-box ideas. Lateral thinking can help you work those grey cells and keep the creativity flowing.

What is lateral thinking?
The term was first coined by the famous psychologist Edward de Bono. He summarized the need for lateral thinking by saying, “You cannot dig a hole in a different place by digging the same hole deeper.”
Once you are presented with a problem, how do you get to thinking about its solution? Lateral thinking can help you break the barrier of age-old solution-driven techniques that have become redundant in the modern age. While practising lateral thinking, the answer is searched in indirect and creative light. When your perception about the problem is tweaked, the solution-driven mind is forced to think of alternatives and come up with solutions that are unique to one’s experiences.
Steps to harness the power of lateral thinking
A few things that can help you execute lateral thinking perfectly are –
1. Stay curious. The only way one can look at the question/problem from a new perspective is when they are questioning everything enough. Ask yourself questions about the whole concept before working your mind towards solutions.
2. Since lateral thinking has only one rule, i.e. think outside the box, there are no restrictions on the order in which the thought must proceed. You could also ideate solutions first and then think backwards. It will help you garner creativity.
3. Switch personas. Sometimes thinking differently could be difficult. An effective technique would be to think of yourself as a different person and run your thoughts as if you were someone else.

Why should you practice lateral thinking?
There are many pros to this technique. Some of them include-
1. It pushes you towards alternatives. When you look at the problem in an unusual light, it naturally will invoke newer solutions, something that will be more creative and unique.
2. It boosts productivity. Eliminating redundancy and monotony, lateral thinking will drive impressive ideas, keeping you motivated enough to not give up and keep working.
3. It makes your solution/product a potential game-changer. Most start-ups or early-stage companies rely on products and solutions that can help them impress stakeholders, including investors and consumers. A novel and out-of-the-box idea is sure to grab eyeballs and get the ball rolling for you.
4. It can be used during interviews to test the creative potential of the candidates. A talent that can drive your business towards incredible heights must be screened well!

The Rags-to-Riches Story of Jack Ma

Inspiring Stories

24 October 2019

The Rags-to-Riches Story of Jack Ma

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

We’re just two months away from entering a new year. And if you are looking for some inspiration to chart your journey into 2020 as a business leader par excellence, this is the story you want to read. Learn how Jack Ma, co-founder of the Alibaba Group, didn’t just dream big, but made it happen. He has rewritten the rules of the e-commerce game, become ‘China’s richest man’ and has gone on to become ‘the most flamboyant tech founder on the planet’.

Jack Ma – A man with great emphasis on learning

Born Ma Yun on 10th September 1964 in Hangzhou, China, Ma worked as a tourist guide for nine years so that he could practice spoken English. Interestingly, it was an American tourist who nicknamed him Jack when they were pen-pals. Although he was Head of the Student Council in school, college was not easy. He struggled to obtain his degree and then enrolled himself at a teaching institute to become a lecturer in English at Hangzhou Dianzi University.

 In 1994, Ma started his first company, Hangzhou Haibo Translation Agency. The following year, he visited the US with his friends for a better understanding of the World Wide Web. There he realised that China and Chinese products found no mention on the internet. This motivated him to start his second company, chinapages.com, which he registered in the US. In three years, the company earned about USD 800,000!

The birth of Ali Baba – A global inspiration

For the next few years, Ma headed an IT company established by the China International Electronic Commerce Center, a department of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation. He quit in 1999 to return to Hangzhou with his team to found Alibaba, China’s answer to Amazon. Ma firmly believed in an open market economy that caters to customer needs. Soon, his company revealed the mega potential of small and mid-sized (SMEs) businesses across the globe. In 2014, Alibaba raised USD 25 billion, the largest initial public offering in US financial history to become one of the world’s most profitable technology companies.

The rejections en route – A tale of extraordinary perseverance

Ma’s parents worked as musical storytellers and growing up, he had little exposure to the world of business. Life threw him his fair share of rejections and failures, teaching the entrepreneur important lessons in patience and perseverance. His first tryst with failure was during college graduation, when he could not succeed in clearing the Chinese entrance exams until his fifth attempt!

He applied 10 times to Harvard Business School; he was rejected every time. Ma also applied for 30 different jobs, including one at KFC, but failed to hear back from any of them! The failures only strengthened his tenacity and will to succeed. Today, he inspires people with his stories urging them to remain steadfast in the face of obstacles. An entertainer at heart, Ma enjoys singing and dancing. Did you know that he made his acting debut in 2017 with a Kung Fu short film?

 The richest man in China – More than a serial entrepreneur

Four years after Alibaba received the USD 25 billion funding, Ma announced his plans for retirement as Executive Chairman to pursue educational work. He is seen as a global ambassador for Chinese business, and a role model for start-ups.

As of October 2019, Ma is one of China’s richest men, with a net worth of USD 37.9 billion. He also featured in the Forbes’ list of World’s Most Powerful People and World’s Greatest Leaders. However, he remains frugal in his daily life, with humble hobbies like meditation, reading and Tai Chi.

In 2015, he launched Alibaba Hong Kong Young Entrepreneurs Foundation to support entrepreneurs in Hong Kong. The same year, the company funded the rebuilding of 10,000 houses damaged by the earthquake-hit in Nepal. This year, the Foundation launched the Netpreneur initiative that grants a million US dollars each to 10 African entrepreneurs annually, and launched a fund with USD 14.6 million to develop education in Tibet.