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Leader 11 min

How to Adopt New Mindsets and Culture with Digital Thought Leaders

At ADAPT, we understand that mindsets to underpin culture.

We define culture to be the behaviours of organisational members when collaborating with each other in pursuit of action plans, mission statements and business goals. The outcomes of these efforts are often measured by Key Performance Indicators in achieving customer satisfaction.

At Digital Edge in May, we asked thought leaders their proven and most effective ways to adopt new mindsets and culture.


Simon Waller – Digital Champion, Author and Advisor

I think it’s a really tough thing, I think the bigger the organisation is, the harder it becomes. So what we know is the culture is, is disproportionately influenced by people at the top. So first of all, unless you have buy-in at an executive level about a change in culture, and a change in mindset and change the way we do things around here.

So to me, culture is just an agreement on the way we do things around here.”

So if we want to create that change, first of all, we have that buy-in. But I think that often that the challenge is not necessarily the top, I think that the people that don’t might even get that in principle, and the biggest challenge is actually offered in the middle. So the middle of the organisation is often people who have come from the bottom, and then now in a position where they’ve gone from being told what to do to get to the telly. And if you plan on taking something away from them, you plan on taking that control away from them, then you have to give them something else.

I think that is probably the biggest challenge is that we don’t have a lack of engagement from the people the bottom, I’m not even sure we have a lack of engagement from the top. But how is that we engage people through the middle to actually say that this is actually an opportunity for them to forego some of the responsibility and move into a role. It’s not so much about telling but about coaching and supporting. So look I don’t underestimate the size of that challenge. As I said, the bigger the organisation and the bigger the middle, the harder it becomes.


Vincent Pierce – GM at Westpac NEXT

One story at a time. I mean, it requires constant relentless reinforcement. I probably spend without exaggeration, $40 or $50 a week just buying people coffee, sitting down having a conversation, understanding their perspective, first of all, and like we laid out in our Changemaker journey, inspiring the need to change. And we do that in Westpac next through empathy, right? Let us understand the first situation you’re in as a banker, what’s the situation our customers? And how might we think about that differently? Free in our shell cells from the shackles of yesterday.


Dr. Ian Oppermann – Chief Data Scientist and CEO NSW Data Analytics Centre at NSW Government

I can tell you how not to do it. And I can tell you one of the hardest things in the world to do is change someone’s mind. And data just laid out evidence laid out or insights just laid out, won’t do it just won’t do it. They’re all the reasons under the sun, why your daughter is wrong. Your analysis is wrong, your interpretation is wrong, your context is wrong, the data quality is bad. All of these are reasons put forward as to why this result is going to be rejected. How do you get it right?

Well, the very first thing to do is actually have a trusted relationship with the person you’re talking to. That’s an easy thing to say. But an extraordinarily difficult thing to build up. You can build trust by doing things and producing results and regularly contextualising.”

And that works if you’ve got someone who wants to work with you. If you’re working with someone who really doesn’t want to work with you, then sometimes it’s make the mistake, make the apology, learn from it, do the Mea culpa, do it again, and repeat the process in every increasingly important bites, the constantly allowing people to come back to you and say, you really got it wrong. And this is why you got it wrong.

Kerrie Campbell – CIO at Flinders University

That’s absolutely critical. So you know that everyone talks about the digital transformation? Well, how many people actually really understand what it is an hour there, and what the hell is it all about. Because in every single model, we lift, leave out the most important thing, and that’s people are saying digital transformation. pages are saying, move to new technologies faster. But we can’t do that unless we take the people with us. Some people will drop off. And that’s part of the change curve.

But if we don’t take people and transform the way that they think, and the way that I act, and release that, that tight hold that they have working the same way every time, then we won’t get there. And we’ll be talking about this in 20 years time saying, well, who are digitally transformed? Has anyone done it yet? I think humans are creatures of habit, we all go to work the same way. And when that word way to work is blocked, like how are we going to get to work. But the thing is, is 10,000 ways to get to work, just always blocked. So allowing people to understand that there are many ways to work is very, very powerful.


Toby Heaton-Armstrong – Head of Digital Technology at Dexus Property Group

I think you’ve got to have top-down leadership and buy it at a leadership level about how you want your team and organisation to perform. We’re very lucky in technology, we’ve got incredibly low staff turnover. And I think it’s because we’ve fostered a very caring, considerate culture within the team. And we’ve got a good reputation within the business. And I think that there’s just being genuine with people you trust takes a long time to learn, but you can lose it very, very quickly. So if you can avoid kind of finger-pointing and negative behaviours and a lot more about supportive and trying to help people out, it tends to work for you long term.


Ines Almeida – Digital Transformation Advisor at ANZ

Well, I come to all sorts of events all the time, I try to read, I tried to watch, whether it’s dead videos, or etc, always looking for the insights that will change my behaviour and make me a little better. And I think that mindset of continuously improving and continuously learning is very important. I spend way too much money going to South by Southwest every year that is not sponsored by the business. And that’s not just one of the things I do. I care a lot, I also have the privilege of having the opportunity and the time to do it. Not everybody does. But whatever you can do in your environment to learn something new, it’s important that you do so right.


Paul Shetler – Partner at AccelerateHQ

So culture really is nothing more than what people do in an organisation is the sum total of the interactions that people have.”

That is the culture of an organised and you can just see how relations culture is by seeing how people do things and how they treat each other. That is their culture. So I think, people talk about things like culture change, they’re kind of approaching it in a magical way to say, well, we’ll leave all the drivers and incentives in place, but we’ll tell them to be more cooperative will tell them to be more agile will tell them to be more innovative, will tell them to be more collaborative, but we won’t change the way that we do our funding, we won’t change our governance, we won’t change our procurement, we won’t change it, we won’t change our structures, we won’t change our incentive schemes or anything else.

Well, that’s not gonna change anything, right? That just might give you a different colour on your wall, some nice cakes, and a bit of extra time, which all of which are good things, but they’re not going to change your culture. So you need companies to understand what do they want their people to do? How do they want their people to act? And then change the processes and procedures that they have in place? The guidelines that they have in place to reward those behaviours, and not incentivise one.


Sherif Mansour – Distinguished Product Manager at Atlassian

If culture is how work gets done, then the people to vesting type the culture are the people that have to do the work. And so we always think about, okay, what practices can we do to empower people to make their own decisions, empower people to choose their own tools, empower people to choose how they work? This becomes challenging when you start thinking about teams that need to work together, because all of a sudden, they need to come up with a shared agreement on the culture for how this team will engage with this team.

But it becomes challenging. So I think what it’s important to a lot on is the vocabulary. The team is used across the organisation. I give an example in my talk earlier, where every team reported on statuses of projects differently, project status reporting is a classic problem every organisation has, and what we realised we were trying to centralise all the planning in one place of all the products and try to go top-down planning to have that central thing, we realise this, every team is going to use the tool a one, let’s do that, let’s just agree on the common language will have four teams to look across each other and up and down.

And so, for that particular example, we just said, okay, what’s the shared vocabulary this department will have? And those are the things we align on. So for example, if you’re in a marketing department, we agree that like, okay, these are the things that we care about, which is, active users to the website, and the top of the funnel, that kind of stuff. So every project, you work on your thinking about, how am I impacting these things, and those are the shared things you agree on.

Paul McNamara – Partner and Managing Director at Adaptovate

So adopting new mindsets and cultures is difficult, and there’s no easy way about it. It requires constant reinforcement and constant change in how you work. And I think there’s, there are three key things that that I think is really important to make sure you embed a new culture.

The first one is finding somebody or a group of people who can embody those new behaviours show everyone what it’s like, so people can just simply copy.”

The second one is you need to give them the right support. It’s not easy to do, providing the right coaching, the right support to change and give so that so it is easy for them. And lastly, it’s that constant reinforcement when things become tough. And the pressures on it’s really easy for people to switch back into their old way of working. And mainly because it’s the easy way out, it’s what’s comfortable for them. But to really reinforce that going on, it’s somebody there to constantly give them a little bit of a kick, and that motivation to make sure they can continue to embody those new pages.


Pontus Siren – Partner at Innosight

In some ways, leaders have to become better storytellers, they have to tell a narrative that people can understand. And of course, if one then double clicks on that, what you have to do is you have to conduct a rigorous analysis of the situation, the threats and opportunities, some of the things we just talked about, then you have to drive alignment, the leadership team, so they can tell a common narrative to the whole organisation. And then you have to enable action. And then you’ve got to repeat that as you refine the model. So it’s about analysis, hugely important than is alignment, and then action. So you actually do something.

Consistently throughout that journey leaders have to be telling the story: Why are we doing this and where are we going? Often we get lost in the complexities. We have to simplify. We have to set the direction, set the objectives and constantly explain why we are doing this.”

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