Cracking The Code of Innovation - David Peterson [Interview]

About David Peterson

David Peterson is the President at US Dataworks. He is an internationally acclaimed strategic innovation expert, speaker and leadership coach. He is the best selling author of the book, Grounded and is highly sought after for his keynote addresses, which are always customized to suit the audience. Bringing with him an experience of over 2 decades, we are extremely happy to have David on our interview series today. 

Cracking The Code of Innovation - David Peterson [Interview]

Sumitha Mariyam

We have the pleasure of welcoming David Peterson today to our interview series. I’m Sumitha Mariyam from the peopleHum team. Before we begin, just a quick intro of PeopleHum.peopleHum is an end-to-end, one-view, integrated human capital management automation platform, the winner of the 2019 global Codie Award for HCM that is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the future of work. We run the peopleHum blog and video channel which receives upwards of 200,000 visitors a year and publish around 2 interviews with well-known names globally, every month. 

Sumitha

Welcome David. We’re thrilled to have you.

David

Sumitha, thank you so much for inviting me. I look forward to our chat.

Sumitha

It’s our pleasure. So, David, going further to the interview, the first question I had for you. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey, your journey of two decades that brought you to this beautiful place today you’re here.

David

Excellent! Thank you so much. It’s a great question. I started off very young as a computer programmer and was studying programming in school. I got a job at a company that provided financial services; electronic banking, if you will. I didn’t know anything about electronic banking. I was just a programmer, writing code. 

I managed to work my way through that company, was paying attention to other things going on, started getting involved in education and ultimately wound up doing sales so I sort of worked my way through that company from a position of programmer and then had a succession of other financial, financial technology companies that I went to work for.

I just kind of became very ingrained in this whole idea of electronic banking and payments just from that first programmer job and really started paying attention. Then I started several companies in this space and for the last 10 years, in addition to my now being president US DataWorks, I have a consulting company called i7 strategies.

And so I provide a speaking, written a book issue, as you mentioned, I do strategic planning facilitation, but one of the most exciting things that I do now is I focus on creativity and innovation specifically as it relates to a company that’s trying to ignite, let’s call it enterprise-wide innovation. How do we get everyone in the company, not just these few people that are over here in IT or that one person who’s involved in strategy. What do we get to do to get everybody involved in innovation?

I’ve created a lot of content around innovation and how it can get sparked and ignited in a company and then how do you sort of keep it going. What are the things you absolutely can’t do which would snuff it out?

Sumitha

Yeah, that’s very interesting to talk a lot about innovation, which brings me to my next question. So I saw when I was looking up about you and everything, an innovation DNA and innovating where you are, so 

Can you help us understand more about your philosophy of the innovation port?

David

Sure. So I try to think of this at different levels. Maybe if you take a typical company, you have a CEO, you have a group of senior leaders, the head of HR, the head of finance, the head of sale and so forth and then down below that you might have a hierarchy of supervisors and managers and then you have a bunch of people who are just working. 

Now some companies may only have 12 people, and so all those kinds of hierarchies work out. Some companies have 1200 people or 12,000 people, right? But you still kind of have that same sort of layered approach.

Generally, what happens is if somebody comes into a new company and they’re given some instruction about what their job is. ‘Here Sumitha, you’re coming in and this is what you do. Here’s our procedure, here’s how you work through and do what you do’. And so you’re doing that. 

And now you start to see some things, because you’ve come in from outside the organization you’re looking at your five step process here and you say, what’s the step four? I don’t understand what step four is, right? So think where you are and this whole idea of DNA there’s a company created environment where a new employee comes in, particularly one who’s not that familiar with what you do. 

They look at your processes, and when they raise their hand and go, I don’t understand why we do step four? How does the company respond? Do they react?

This is the process. This is five steps, step four comes after step three and it’s been forced, right? If that’s their response, particularly as we think about new people coming into the marketplace as they get jobs right, so younger millennials and Gen Z’s as they grow up, they’re not the type of people who want to work in an environment where those kinds of rules are there.

The other way, a company could say, hey, wait a minute, is somebody new? She doesn’t know our forest. She’s never seen our trees.

Maybe she’s got some insight. Let’s take a look at step four. Maybe step four is something that Sumitha doesn’t understand. But it’s a regular thing in our industry that we have to do. It’s seemingly unimportant, but it’s really important.

And so we can explain now to you why it’s important. You could go, great. I got it. Thank you for explaining that to me and your satisfaction is high.

But maybe, there isn’t any reason for step four. Step four was put into place years and years ago. And it’s just part of that process. 

That nobody ever took the time to really understand whether or not step four still needs to be done. And if they look at it and go, hey, you know what, we don’t need to do step four? Maybe step four takes five minutes, and maybe there’s 10 or 50 or 100 people doing step four.

So now all of a sudden you get rid of five minutes across enterprise and you’ve started just in a very small way to greatly expand the opportunity for people to focus on innovation. Even if it’s a process like why do we need step four or an invention or a new product or a twist on a new product. Any or all of those consorts are very small and yet have a large impact on the organization.

“Even if it’s a process like why do we need step four or an invention or a new product or a twist on a new product. Any or all of those consorts are very small and yet have a large impact on the organization.”

Sumitha

Well, that’s an amazing example. It’s a beautiful way to put it. I had this interview with another entrepreneur. His name was Joey Price, and he was telling me an organization is only as good as its innovation. So because of all these organizations crowding up the corporate world, you have to innovate to hang in there and survive amidst all of this. 

So coming to that, the crowded corporate space, Is there any specific advice that you might want to convey with the new age startup leaders who are in the difficult race to succeed?

David

Yes, So what I would say is, if there’s a younger person, if there’s a younger GenX or a millennial that wants to start a company, they probably have, a, pretty good open idea, right about what they want to do. I think what they don’t necessarily have is, they are not necessarily grounded. So I’m gonna plug in for my book. They’re not thinking about all those kinds of things that could happen that are wrong. They’re really only thinking very positively.

“They’re not thinking about all those kinds of things that could happen that are wrong. They’re really only thinking very positively.”

And one of the things that I bring out in ‘Grounded’ is this. When we’re examining how we move forward, starting a new company, initiating a new project, taking a new job, pick whatever kind of thing like that you want. We look at and we look at sort of the pros and cons and we say, well, what are all the good things that can happen? And then we sort of can prioritize those. Here’s why this is good.

What we almost never do is think about what’s the worst bad thing that can happen and compare the worst bad thing to the best good thing. If you look at the worst bad thing and it’s really bad in comparison with the best good thing, then that might be enough for you to say, I don’t know that’s necessarily a good idea.

So this is the part that I see most younger entrepreneurs were getting started. They don’t take the time to think through the worst bad things. And this is something that people of my generation, baby boomers and others have a lot of experience. 

We’ve just been around longer, so we’ve seen a lot more bad things. So you have this clash between the millennials who are so fired up and excited to start a business and the baby boomers, who are kind of like the grumpy man who’s mad because the ball is in his yard, right?

Somehow if we could bring these two groups together and these older folks can understand and help people with this energy and this passion for starting a business and not be critical, but try to help and support and encourage with wisdom. 

But yet younger people have to understand that. Hey, look, maybe maybe I don’t really see it from their perspective, but I’ll listen. I’ll listen. So a great example of that is, there’s a young man by the name of Matt Pfaltzgraf and he is the CEO of a company in Atlanta called Soft Giving. It’s softgiving.com, he’s a millennial and I knew him in the industry. 

We both worked at different companies and Fintech and he had an idea for a company and we started collaborating. And when I would share with him information that he didn’t immediately think was good, he never he never dismissed it out of hand. He never was like, oh, forget it, whatever. He listened. He didn’t always take my advice, but he always listened.

So over the years now, we formed a very good relationship where I sort of serve as a CEO mentor for him. As he stood up his company, he’s hiring people, he had to fire people, he’s had to go twists and turns with his business, and he and I could just get on the phone and talk about things I can share with him, my perspectives.

He gives me his insight on it and somewhere in there we sort of work on something that comes out to be, I think, pretty good. That’s what I would look for, speak, be confident in your ideas, but find a mentor. If you want to use a sailing example, find a captain that you think would serve as good. I’m gonna go on a journey. I want to make sure I find a captain and then follow that person and learn whatever. And then eventually you’ve got your own ship, you take the wheel and off you go.

“If you want to use a sailing example, find a captain that you think would serve as good. I’m gonna go on a journey. I want to make sure I find a captain and then follow that person and learn whatever. And then eventually you’ve got your own ship, you take the wheel and off you go”.

That would be my advice.

Sumitha

That is some great advice. And I totally agree with you. I mean wisdom comes with experience, and you go to have that fine balance of wisdom and energy to keep things going and pushing it forward so that’s beautiful. And so let’s focus on the larger organizations for some time. 

So all Multinational Corporates, all MNC’s, they’re all facing this problem of employee retention. What do you think needs to be changed for that? Where are they going wrong?

David

Well, let me just give you one example, and I won’t use any names. But a couple of years ago, I put together an innovation challenge for a Fintech, a company that had, um I don’t know, say, 300-500 employees, something like that. And the whole idea behind innovation challenges to go in and actually do workshops across the entire organization. 

Everyone from the chairman of the board down to everybody who works in support, just talking on the phone, whatever. Everyone participated in a series of workshops. And then we set up a challenge where we actually created an environment where they could create a cross-functional team and come up with an idea. 

And we gave him somewhat I call riverbanks. Your ideas need to be, they can’t cost more than $2500. Here we were just talking about process improvements, kind of give them some gates, sort of keep within this area. But go come up with any kind of ideas.

They formed cross-functional teams, so they couldn’t just be all their little people from support or HR doing it. They had to reach out to other departments and pull these together and they came up with ideas. We set up an independent panel, they made presentations, and I coached him through their presentations. 

Now, these are people in the organization who 

  • Nobody ever asked their opinion about what could be done in their work.
  • They’ve never made a presentation before ever of any kind, much less the presentation of their own ideas. 

They were collaborating with other departments. They were working with other departments and seeing and getting different perspectives from other departments.

So from an HR standpoint, it achieved a huge number of very positive things relative to how those employees felt about the process and the ones that whose ideas scored, we literally had judges scoring the ideas on four criteria and those that met the score were actually put into place.

So now that people could see that the company actually did those things that they suggested that they could do and then they were doing that on every six months basis.

So they basically have sort of like a spring challenge in a fall challenge. And so I was continuing to work with them to help kind of move this along, it generated all kinds of excitement and everybody was really happy, right up until the point where people stopped participating. What? Wait what?

So I’m helping these guys form teams. And it turns out that the accounting department of this company was penalizing people who were coming up with and spending time working on cross-functional teams because they were keeping track of all of their time.

If they spend an hour with a team working on an innovative idea, they were not being given credit for that time. So when they look at their overall monthly average, they were falling behind some of their peers simply because that hour wasn’t being counted.

So I went to the accounting department. I said, guys look, they’re coming up with ideas that are saving money, that everyone’s excited about you gotta stop making this a negative and they wouldn’t do it. And the CEO wouldn’t go to his CFO and make him change it, and it all just ended.

So I tell that story a lot because it’s a good example of how igniting, how people can get really excited about something, and then something can happen that is completely and totally outside the boundaries of what you’re trying to do with innovation, that just takes the whole joy and kills the whole thing.

So there has to be this attitude of we’re doing this. We’re doing this for a purpose because we’ll get the results of the innovation which will have a much higher level of satisfaction with the employees. But, the CEO and the company has to back that up with actions that keep that spirit of innovation going.

“The CEO and the company has to back that up with actions that keep that spirit of innovation going”.

Sumitha

Well, that’s a great example. For the first half of the story I was like, wow, that’s a great and amazing idea. I think you delivered a good, great message with backstory and even I think, when we as employees, our voices are heard and their opinions are concurred to be credible. We get a lot of power from it. We get a lot of motivation from it. It’s like recognition. It’s like they are hearing us, that feels good so that looks as  a sense of engagement with the work and it looks like it’s a good experience.

So when we talk about employee engagement, how much do you think that technology can play a part in engaging their employees better? 

David

Yeah, So another company that I am working with currently, that’s doing the same kind of innovation challenge that I created. They actually have created an internal system to harvest all of these ideas and allow other employees to see the different ideas and be able to weigh in on them.

So I think that there can be innovation and technology that’s applied, you know, this type of thing. But I would just tell you that technology isn’t the answer. We can’t add more technology and somehow come up with better ideas or better innovation.

Let me just quickly share with you that my feeling is strongly this, that there is no innovation without creativity. Gotta come up with something new. You got to be creative, to come up with something new. But people conflate creativity and innovation all the time. Used them interchangeably, but they’re not,  so innovation must have creativity. But creativity may not have innovation.

So I coined this phrase that, Innovation is creativity expressed, manufactured and consumed.

“Innovation is creativity expressed, manufactured and consumed”. 

So what does that mean? So if I had an idea, I’ve got a great idea. You’re not gonna believe this idea. Okay? She says what? Tell me. Tell me and I can’t explain it to you. I can’t. I can’t explain it in any way that you would understand. If I can’t write it down, What good is that idea? 

So I have to be able to express it. I have to be able to explain it to you or write it down so that somebody else can understand It, express it,  manufacture it. I have to build it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a process or a product or, you know, whatever it is, it has to be able to be manufactured. I’ve got to create it. 

Otherwise, what utility does it have and then consume? If I create something, but nobody can use it, nobody wants to use it. Nobody sees any reason to use it. Then what utility did it really have?

So I’ve got to come up with ideas and they have to follow the express, manufacture and consume. If I do those three things I can have an innovation. I’ll circle back around to your question. What companies aren’t  doing is they want innovation but refuse to allocate time for employees to think, to be creative.

So if you are at your company peopleHum if all of a sudden every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m on your calendar, that everyone in the company can see, it says thinking, it’s on your calendar now. Other people are looking at your calendar and says We need her to be in the meeting at 10, she’s unavailable. What’s she doing? Say she’s thinking.

What would people in the company think about you putting ‘thinking’ on your calendar? Or let’s say this. You’re probably having to work from home with all of this. But let’s say you’re in your office it’s like those really nice, beautiful offices that have like a glass, you know, so that when people walk by, they can see you in there, right? So your boss or better, your boss’s boss walks by and Sumitha is actually.

So you’ve got your feet up like this and you’re sitting back there just like this (sitting leisurely on the chair). And they walk by. What did they think? What is she doing? Is she taking a nap in there? What is she doing? it’s 10 o’clock in the morning. We gotta be working, right?

So this whole idea of companies almost discouraging people to just think whether or not they get in a group into a little brainstorming or whether they’re doing some kind of innovation or thinking on their own, we don’t value that as a company. So the one thing that companies can do that would start this is not allow but insist! Insist that a certain amount of time was allocated every month for people to individually brainstorm ideas.

“Insist that a certain amount of time was allocated every month for people to individually brainstorm ideas.” 

So that at a point in time, when somebody says, hey, does anybody have any ideas or hey, we’ve got this problem over here. Has anyone done any thinking on this? Somebody maybe like Sumitha goes, hey, I have an idea. I have actually done some thinking on this. Great. What’s your idea?

That is that is the single biggest problem that we have right now in most of my workshops or helping people to think about the whole idea of thinking, and I’ve got a lot of content about right and left brain and how creativity happens and so on and so forth, and we can talk about that if you want now. 

But that’s the one thing that this idea of actually setting time aside for thinking. And here’s a couple other quick notes. Warren Buffett, right? He’s a pretty rich guy, right? Every Tuesday Warren Buffett has marked on his calendar haircut the whole day, the whole day. Now, if you’ve seen a picture of Warren Buffett, he didn’t need a haircut every Tuesday, Right? What’s he doing on Tuesdays? He’s thinking.

So there’s a way that you can. I’ve always said when I do keynote speeches, I said, If you’re a supervisor and you want to spend time thinking, just put on your calendar ‘Employee evaluations/ bonus’ and everyone will leave you alone. There won’t be anybody that will bother you for that hour, right? If you just put something on your calendar like that.

Sumitha

Yeah, I love this answer of yours. And if you don’t mind, I would like to share an experience with you. So when I joined peopleHum this team I was surprised by the amount of time that the team spends thinking. I was so happy inside when you were giving this answer. Because I am fortunate enough to be in a team, that gives me time to think. 

And I have my leaders, as you said, the boss of my boss. So we don’t have the boss concept we call everyone by their first names and we are all very close to each other and how they materialised the office in such a way that, one of my colleagues was in a ice cream shop and, he was like, hey, I feel very productive sitting in this set up and my CEO was like, okay, let’s bring that in the office. 

And he did that for us. I think there are organizations that try to bring in more innovation and good time to think. Yes. I think we have a lot of organizations which is just a lot of history to change the culture that they already have. It’s just difficult for them to.

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David

And I will tell you one of the clients I work with is a company up in Michigan called Member Driven Technologies, and their CEO has a passion for the same kind of environment that you have there at peopleHum. It is when I every time I go up to their offices there’s such an amazing vibe right in that office. 

However, most of the companies I work with are either financial institutions, banks, credit unions, or companies that serve them. And if peopleHum and member-driven technologies is that one into the spectrum? Banks and credit unions are at the complete opposite. They do not create interesting fun places for employees.

In fact, they’re not even interesting, fun places for customers, right? Because they feel like they have a very tradition like, we can’t have any fun here, we’re a bank, right? We have this decorum and everything has to be so serious. 

And I know this is true because if you ever watch a parent, watch a mother or father walking into the bank branch with two or three small children and they’re just doing things like small children do (crying sound) or whatever and invariably the parent, she’s gonna shhh or he’s gonna hush the children.

It’s like, wait a minute, this is not a library, this is not a museum, why are we hushing, right? Because we have that same kind of feeling about we’re in the bank. So now we have to be super serious, whatever. So so I try my best to try and get these bankers just to move. Just a bulge, a little bit on the creativity spectrum, but it’s very hard.

Sumitha

Yeah, but that’s a great thing that you’re doing. You’re trying to do it, and that’s very commendable. And coming to our next question. 

How do you think organizations can increase honest performance feedback?

David

Yeah, this is as a person who’s created many companies, I’ve done hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of employee reviews. So, I’m familiar with both the very formal process of employee reviews and the informal process of employee reviews.

One of the things that I like to do as a senior leader is I will perform what I would call a traditional review. But in addition, I will also send all of the employees like a survey monkey survey or some other mechanism where they can respond in an anonymous fashion about how they feel on certain subjects.

So if I’m doing an employee review of Sumitha and that I’m talking to you and you know that whatever you say to me or right, I know it was you and you might say, I like this, I don’t like this or here’s an idea that I have, but I find that more honest comes from anonymous. The more anonymous you make the response, the more honesty that you’ll get. 

And as you also now, as an HR professional, you can create questions that will drive the answers that you want.

“As an HR professional, you can create questions that will drive the answers that you want”.

So you would be very careful about creating questions that genuinely solicit honest responses. And then I look at those. So one of the things that I do is, I juxtapose what I’m seeing on written evaluations where people know that I’m talking to and about them and what I’m seeing from anonymous surveys. 

And I want to know how close those are. I know that I’m going to get more honesty on the anonymous survey, but it better not be like this (hand gesture depicting a huge imbalance), right?

So if I see this (imbalance), then that tells me I have a real issue. Where people just don’t feel very comfortable right about talking honestly and openly. So I’m looking for that delta or the gap between those two things.

The other thing is that this is very important. One of the worst things that a senior leader can do across the whole enterprise is stifle ideas. So I talked before about how we needed to have time to think and have ideas. 

So picture this, somebody comes in, a senior vice president comes into an area. Maybe it’s the accounting area. Pulls everybody together. Everyone comes out of the cubes. Okay, We’ve got this particular issue that we’re trying to solve and I just want to do a little quick brainstorming. I’ve got a flip chart here. Okay. Anybody who’s got an idea about how we can address that, and Sumitha is a junior accounting person. 

Maybe you’ve only been at the company six months, but you’ve been paying attention. So you raise your hand, you say, sir, I think I have an idea. And you explain the idea, as the senior leader goes, who are you? Sumitha, that’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. You obviously haven’t been here long enough to really even understand these problems, a terrible idea! All right, come on. 

Anybody who’s got an idea? Come on. Anybody who’s got an idea? Well, everyone’s kind of looking around, going like wait a second. He just squash Sumitha like a bug. What? I had an idea, but holy cow it. I don’t think my ideas are better than Sumitha’s. I’m not raising my hand. And this is an extreme example. I’m painting, but this way that we respond to people when they make comments is hugely important.

A lot of times it’s not that environment where it’s a formal brainstorming session we’re just walking by somebody’s office and we say something or they say something and we react to what they said as opposed to respond. 

We have to think in our minds what is about to happen when I open my mouth and I’m a supervisor or a manager or a senior leader and I have to think about what am I doing? Am I saying anything right now that’s going to stifle creativity, stifle thinking, stifle Sumitha from ever raising her hand again? If I think that I might be doing that, I’ve got to stop it.

So as senior leaders, there are ways that we can help people understand. So let’s go back to the scenario where you raised your hand. I’m the senior leader. You offer up this idea. I think that’s a crazy idea. I don’t think that’s worth anything. And I’m like, thank you for being the first one. Let’s grab that idea and put it up on the board. Great, awesome. Who’s got another idea? 

I never said I submit that and that’s a great idea or hey, let’s go implement it. I just like, I love it that you gave me an idea. Thank you. Now, in that moment you probably feel pretty good, right? And you might have another idea. So right next to you is John. John didn’t really have an idea. He was like, oh, crap. When I go, I don’t have an idea. He heard your idea. 

And because you articulated that idea boom, something pops into his head, he goes, oh, that makes me think of X. Now he raises his hand and gives another idea. And the senior manager captures that and capture until we can offer up our ideas with the self confidence that we will not be ridiculed for an idea, you will never get true creativity going in a company. 

And it’s that very eyes. That very thing that may be your idea is bad, maybe it’s a terrible idea, but if I squash you like a bug, I don’t get your second idea. I don’t get your fifth idea, which is marginally so so. I don’t get your 22nd idea, which is maybe, But the 35th idea that you come up with saves my company $1,000,000 a year.

What am I gonna do to allow you to be free to offer up those ideas each and every time, with a full confidence that you will be heard, that your idea would be captured and that other people can iterate or riff on your idea and help make it better. 

That’s the single biggest thing that we should be looking for in terms of how we’re getting feedback from these employees about everything about a new product or how can we make our work environment better? Or how are we going to deal with people having to work from home remotely and how we do things over Zoom instead of all together in the office or anything can be done in a way that everyone feels good about their participation?

Sumitha

You have got amazing examples. I really love the examples of little stories that you goes. So just out of curiosity, just another addition to that question. 

So leaders are supposed to recognize their best performers, right? So what is the limit? I mean, where is the line drawn between too much recognition that the employees start underperforming?

David

This is a very good question and like most things, there’s not a hard and fast rule. What is too much recognition for David might not be enough recognition for Sumitha, right? So, unfortunately, we have to kind of create some rules, right?

We can’t have an HR, especially as the company grows and you get to be multiple, hundreds, that’s where the cod red tape comes in because now you’re like, you’re treating that person differently than this person.

So I get all of that. Here’s what I would say. I would say that there needs to be some standardisation of recognition for employees’ efforts that is consistent enough so that nobody feels like they’re being cheated.

And then I, as a manager, try to really understand what drives Sumitha and what drives John and what drives Sue and what drives Henry and then separate from the standard way of recognition or things that may be happening. I might also be doing certain things for the others that might be slightly different, more on a one on one basis rather than whatever.

I know that most people want some kind of recognition.

Most people want some kind of recognition“.

They would love to have the senior leader in front of their peers say, hey, Sumitha, great job. Kudos. Good for you. Everybody loves that kind of, most companies don’t do as much as they could or should, is what I would call ‘people maintenance’. 

So if you were a farmer and you had all its equipment to plant your crops, harvest your crops and fertilize your crops and all of these big tractors and all of this equipment, you would on a regular basis, be greasing axles and changing hoses and doing all the things to ensure that tractor was in perfect running condition because it was so critically important, right?

Most companies today don’t really have a lot of equipment. I mean, obviously there’s a manufacturing company that does. 

But peopleHum or i7 strategies or a bank or most anything is mostly about people. And so what’s maintenance for people? What’s the equivalent of greasing up the axial or changing the hoses in its education? It’s the ability for people to learn new things, to acquire new stills to get certifications and so our companies putting aside even from a budgetary standpoint, enough money for people to advance acquire a new skill that may directly or at least tangentially provide a benefit to the business by them acquiring that skill or knowledge and I think when people understand that the highest performers are going to get a higher level of either budget or opportunity to do more education, that’s an incentive for them to get to that level.

I think when people understand that the highest performers are going to get a higher level of either budget or opportunity to do more education, that’s an incentive for them to get to that level”.

Sumitha

Oh, that’s a great explanation. I mean, that makes a lot of sense. And also, coming to the workforce that we have today. We have always over 70% of the millennial workforce and with the increase in the millennium workforce we have the gig economy rising.

So it’s not just mediocre jobs or the delivery boy jobs anymore the gig workers are everywhere. I mean, you have executed full of workers who want to work for six months, and then take rest. 

So how do you think this is going to fit in the organizational set up that we have today?

David

Yeah, it’s an important question. (showing graph) If I hold this up, can you see that? It’s kind of on the fly making a little graph here. Right? So this is my whole little explanation.

I heard a gentleman. I was speaking at a conference in Jamaica and I heard one of the other speakers talk about how millennials suffer from a problem that they conflate time with success. Right? So if I said that this is the y-axis and this is time and this is success, millennials believe that we line in the y equals x world. 

Now I’m relying on your math skills, right? But if I asked you to draw y equals X? Do you know how you draw it? Just a straight line that goes just up like that, right?

So that means that if I spend two years at a company, I will have achieved a certain amount of success. Oh, if I’m there for three years. But I’m gonna be a vice president, right? So it’s just like I’m putting in this time. Well, the problem is that we actually lived in a Y equals X squared world.

So what happens is, is that instead of this, it looks more like this. Right? So this time that we put it in here on the lower end doesn’t look like we’re going very far, and then all of a sudden it shoots up.

So if a millennial is here but thinks they’re supposed to be here, what’s their job satisfaction? Hey, I’m in a debt. I’m in a dead end job. I’m not getting anywhere right with this. So what they do, they quit and go to another job. So where they start now, they’re back here, right?

This misapplied idea that millennials will only stand a job for a certain time and quit and go somewhere else has much to do with this. Plus the thing that I said earlier, where they’re in a position where they’re being told just do step 4, this is how we do this, right?

So those two things combined kind of put him on that then so then they say, We’ll just go to the gig economy. I’m a big fan of the gig economy. 

Tell me what’s happening right now with somebody who was an uber driver six weeks ago. And what kind of rides they are getting today. What percentage of money are they making or what they made before, based on how much of all the shelter, home and everything has negatively affected them? Right? 

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So I don’t have a problem with the economy. I would say that it really comes down. So what do you consider to be your measure of success. Are you trying to build and start a new company? Maybe you’re doing the gig work as a way to generate revenue as you’re working on your idea for another company.

Okay, that’s that’s completely, totally fine, expected. But if I’m doing the gig economy as my full time gig to generate revenue that I need for myself or my family or whatever my expenses are, what’s the long term? You know?

Is that something that you’re saying? I’m not just doing this for the next year. I’m doing this for the rest of my working life. I think the real question is, is it short term or long term? And if it’s long term, are you in an industry that is insulated from the ups and downs of the economy?

I used to work part time as a programmer at an office supply company, so they were selling pens, pencils, paper, erasers, post it notes, right, office supplies. And I remember the owner telling me one time, he says, David, office supplies are the best business, and  if business is good, people are buying more pins and paper, he says. If businesses are bad they’re filing bankruptcy forms.

Sumitha

I mean, I’ve never had an explanation for the gig economy like this ending so elaborate, and in this case, when you write down things and show a graph it’s just very interesting. I mean, you have a very unique point about it and I just love it. 

So, coming to our last question just to wrap up the interview, if you have any last important sound bites that you would like to leave our audience?

David

Yes, I would. Many of the people who are watching this may not be a supervisor or manager or senior leader or a CEO. They could be just David sitting in a cube or in that workspace, and they don’t manage anybody. They just are themselves. And so they’re not empowered to go make enterprise wide innovation happen. 

They’re not empowered to go grab a flip chart and bring 20 people together to do brainstorming. What I would say is, is you have to decide as an individual, wherever you are, that you are going to get creative, that you’re going to be thinking about things. And if you pay attention, if you listen, you’ll know what kinds of issues are likely to come out or come up as problems or things that particular industry or businesses are going to be likely to solve.

So if you chose on your own not for going to other work, that is your responsibility but chose on your own to do some research to go listen to some YouTube videos to go look up some documents and spend some time independently thinking of ideas about how something could be better in your work. You don’t have any outlet for those ideas yet. You just harvest them and I showed you my little book here.

So millennial, Gen Z might be like, what’s that guy doing? He’s actually holding up a book. It’s got spiral paper on. You need to have something to write down ideas on. So if you have an idea, you have to write it down, maybe you do a voice recording on your phone, maybe you send yourself an email or a text, but you have to capture the idea whenever it comes, in whatever way you can.

“So if you have an idea, you have to write it down, maybe you do a voice recording on your phone, maybe you send yourself an email or a text, but you have to capture the idea whenever it comes, in whatever way you can”.

And then, at some point in time, in the future, somehow, some way you’re in a position may be out of the blue and somebody says, hey, David, have you ever thought about this particular issue? Did you have any ideas and thoughts about what we could do about it?

Now, if you had spent any time thinking you’d be kind of deer in the headlights, right? CEO walks by your cube and just says, hey, what do you think about this? Do you have any ideas? But if you’d spent time thinking you might have you know what I’ve actually been thinking about this and here’s a couple of things that I think might be worth exploring. And you explore a couple of ideas.

Now the CEO could get angry, okay, fine. And walk off. But you confidently shared your ideas. They could go, wait. We haven’t even thought about it. Well, tell me that 2nd and 1st again, that sounds like something we haven’t even looked at or thought about. You’re gonna be a time when without you knowing it in advance, you’re gonna have an opportunity to share your ideas.

 How prepared will you be as just an individual wherever you are, spend time thinking to get creative, to write your ideas down and then confidently present those in an appropriate professional way when you’re asked if you do that, people will notice. 

You may not get any immediate reward, but maybe down the road, when they’re looking at all the people and their thinking, who are we gonna put? We got a little leadership program we’re running through HR, who are our future stars?

Oh that guy, David. Remember he was the one that had that idea. Let’s put him in that program. I’m telling you, it happens just like that. So that’s my soundbite. Think and be creative wherever you are, capture the idea or kiss it goodbye and then confidently share your ideas in a time inappropriate.

Think and be creative wherever you are, capture the idea or kiss it goodbye and then confidently share your ideas in a time inappropriate”.

Sumitha

That’s wonderful and David, I loved having this conversation with you because all of a sudden I feel very motivated, inspired and powerful. You have that energy you possess, pump up everybody else. I’m sure you know your audience, all your keynoters have the greatest time of their lives. So thank you so much for that.

That amazing experience and I’m very sure our viewers are going to feel as I am right now. Thank you so much for coming to our interview series.

David

It is my pleasure. Thank you so much for inviting me.

Sumitha

It is our pleasure to be honest. It is our pleasure. Have a healthy and safe time ahead of you.

David

Thank you.