Inspired by SXSW 2013: Change Culture, The Competitive Advantage.

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Inspired by SXSW 2013: Change Culture, The Competitive Advantage.

Donkey Kong
Above: overcoming obstacles through clarity in the vision of success, and focus, determination and desire to achieve it. 

Having avidly followed #SXSW on Twitter for a number of years now, I was fortunate to be able to be there in person this year.  It’s not often that you attend something with ridiculously high expectations and still exceed them by quite some.  And with experiences that good, it would be rude not to share perspective, in the hope that it motivates others to push through the hurdles currently preventing them from realising a better tomorrow, today.

In fact, it’s this hurdle high-jumping ability that was distinctly centered in each and every presentation I saw at SXSW, and which made me reflect on the negative perspective of strong communities.  We humans are highly skilled at identifying hurdles which we are quick to write off as insurmountable road-blocks.  Reflecting through my career, it’s easy to identify numerous examples of this behaviour.  Behaviour so dominantly ingrained, that on the rare occasion an individual with a very different perspective (who through their lens sees the path around the hurdle) has the courage to present their opposing view to the crowd, the idea is given very little – if any – airtime, or worse, frowned upon in a way that belittles the individual and sends a clear message to other potential game-changers to bottle up their ideas or suffer the same rejection and humiliation.

So what makes the rare few have the confidence to swim against the tide and overcome the hurdles that others walk away from?  The clear and present theme lurking in the words of the successful SXSW entrepreneurs was: precision in the visualisation and articulation of their vision; an overwhelming belief that it was achievable (despite the stretch of the imagination of others), and; a dogged determination to make it a reality.  This combination appeared to switch their focus beyond the hurdles, changing the context of those hurdles from being progress blockers to being game-like challenges which whilst frustrating when failing the first few times, is half the fun of the game and a necessity in identifying winners from players.

When reflecting this back to the corporate world, it further reinforced my belief that a change-embracing culture is a significant sustainable (not easy to replicate) differentiator for businesses today.  Organisations which unequivocally embrace diversity of thought, perspective and experience whilst stabilising on shared personal values and a single shared vision will, I believe, be the survivors as we move into an increasingly global workforce dominated by a generation less inclined to make the lifestyle compromises of past generations, Gen-Z.

It is however a far from trivial task to bring this culture consistency to life within an existing organisation of any size, let alone the larger corporations.

For the benefit to be truly realised, it takes a single-minded approach throughout the entire organisation, with emphasis on the hiring managers, to recruit with zero tolerance on cultural misfit (vision and values) no matter how tempting the strength of the individual’s skills.

That said, from my experience at UBank – the most progressive company I have worked for in this in this respect – it is clear that the benefit is undeniably worth the effort, with remarkable win:win outcomes for employees, the organisation and – where the same vision and values pairing principles are applied – third-party partners alike.

Perhaps with an increase in the prevalence of this prism of perspective gleaned out of industry, function and skill-set diversity, grounded by common values and powered by a shared vision; the kind of mind-blowing innovation witnessed at SXSW won’t reside exclusively with the confident few, and instead we’ll witness unfathomable momentum on a global scale, to truly deliver a better tomorrow, today.

Vive la difference.  Vive la [r]evolution!

Jennie Bewes
Jennie Bewes
Former Australian Financial Review columnist, speaker and founder/MD of REDSQ innovation & consulting, Jennie Bewes has been a driving force of innovation within global brands for the past 20 years blending strategic marketing, design and development with cultural change for optimal results from the inside out.

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