It was day two of the World Business Forum conference in Sydney, and delegates heard about emotional intelligence, leadership, disruption, and diversity in another day of presentations from some of the best minds in business.
The emotionally intelligent make great leaders
Kicking things off for the day, Daniel Goleman gave delegates a crash course in psychiatry. Arguably considered the founding father of the concept of emotional intelligence – he’s won a Pulitzer prize for his writing on the subject – Goleman explained how emotional intelligence is more important than typical intelligence predicated on a person’s IQ.
Goleman said that’s because there are four pillars underpinning emotional intelligence:
Notice emotional intelligence does not involve technical skills or abilities? That’s because emotional intelligence, Goleman said, is about how people manage and lead themselves. And it’s crucial in leadership roles, where people are no longer using their technical skills because they’re getting the job done through other people.
Goleman also explained how the amygdala, a portion of the brain that detects threats, can overtake the rational, decision-making portion of the brain – the prefrontal cortex – that results in a person falling back on “overlearned” or childish responses – a quality often found people with low emotional intelligence.
The upshot: emotional intelligence, unlike high IQ, can be learned through “the school of life”.
Disruption is caused by social issues not technology
The next presenter, the Melbourne Business School’s Ian Williamson spoke extensively about adapting, thriving and surviving in a period of disruption, but with a focus on social issues. It’s something he’s studied extensively as the root cause of most disruptions to organisations today.
Williamson defines disruptions as:
Changes in technology
But according to Williamson, it’s not disruption from new technologies and competitors that are impacting organisations most, it’s actually social challenges in our communities that has the greatest impact.
“The businesses we’re operating,” Williamson said, “they’re not embedded in an industry – they’re embedded in a community.”
Williamson said an organisation will only go as far as the community will take it.
He highlighted the issue of diversity in Australia that will come to affect Australian businesses in the future, specifically the changes to the labour market as a consequence of an ageing population and a reliance of skilled migrant workers.
“The Australian population is shifting dramatically,” Williamson said.
In 2020, there will be as many people aged 60-70 as there will be people aged 10-20.
Half of Australia’s labour supply is coming from skilled migrant workers – and will continue to do so. “Organisations will not be able to do what they do without migrant workers,” Williamson said. “They will need to create systems to tap into these labour market opportunities.”
He told organisations to ask two questions in relation to the disruptions their businesses are facing:
“What are the social issues faced by communities in your organisation?” and “What opportunities might be created by your firm by addressing market failures created by social issues?”
Facts are the antidote to disruption
The second half of the day kicked off with Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, whose presentation covered disruption through the lens of facts.
Wales took delegates through the inner workings of Wikipedia, and his previous business failings up to Wikipedia. He also talked about his new project: WikiTRIBUNE, which he hopes will “fix the news”.
He also talked at length about Wikipedia’s commitment to independence, which he said had become critical to maintaining our democracy, especially in an age of “post truth” and “post facts”, which drives him “crazy because I’ve spent the last 16 years trying to get people to care about facts”.
Wales was particularly critical of the advertising-only model that’s currently funding journalism, as well as the use of programmatic advertising which he said had resulted in a “race to the bottom” for clicks.
What gets measured gets done – even diversity
Picking up where Ian Williamson left off on the subject of diversity, a diversity panel that included three Australian business leaders was convened to discuss the issue of diversity in the Australian workplace.
NAB’s chief customer officer Angela Mentis, executive director of people, performance and culture at Holden Ashley Winnett, Australia Post’s chief customer officer Christine Corbett joined moderator Jody Evans of the Melbourne Business School.
At the NAB, Mentis said targets are set around 50 percent of recruits being women. Likewise for leadership roles. Mentis said that a changing customer base made diversity critical to NAB’s continued success in the country.
Holden’s Ashley Winnett said Holden’s experience was similar: “If you migrated to Australia in the last 20 years, Holden is irrelevant to you. That’s a challenge for us.”
Winnett also talked about why reaching a gender quota was important to Holden. “If a woman walks into a dealership, he said, “they want to purchase a car from a woman, but very few women work in the automotive industry.”
Christine Corbett said Australia Post’s key to increasing diversity was to create an action plan around each area the company wanted to improve. “We created an indigenous action plan, we created a disabilities action plan, we created a gender action plan,” she said.
Angela Mentis added that flexibility was another important factor for NAB achieving gender diversity. Mentis said that over 29,000 NAB employees now have the ability to work remotely so that “if they want to work from home or from somewhere else, they can.”
To achieve that figure – and diversity as a whole, for any organisation – Mentis said it’s important to set ambitious targets because “I believe that what gets measured, gets done”.
Who’s Mark Zuckerberg?
If anyone was suffering from 3.30itis, they were surely roused from their stupor by Randi Zuckerberg, the author of the New York Times bestseller Dot Complicated who bounced out onto the stage.
Before she began, though, she just wanted to clear something up: She wasn’t there just because Mark was unavailable.
“I know you're thinking ‘The Zuckerberg sister?’ but I promise if you’re still thinking that in an hour’s time, I haven’t done my job,” she said.
And by the end of the day, all of the delegates left thinking ‘the Zuckerberg brother?’
And so, Zuckerberg began by proudly announcing that she graduated from Harvard (“That’s such an obnoxious thing to say, but there’s another member of my family who didn’t so that’s my claim to fame”) and confessing she really wanted to be a Broadway singer but Harvard rejected her.
After graduating from Harvard, she ended up working in digital marketing, and it was that experience that prompted brother Mark to ask her to come and work at Facebook (“Also, translation: Will you work for free?”).
At Facebook, Zuckerberg launched Facebook Live, an initiative conceived of during a Facebook Hackathon that she thought failed dismally when only two people watched her first show (her parents), but roused the interest of Katy Perry who wanted to announce her next world tour on the platform.
Three months later, Zuckerberg was hosting President Obama and Oprah Winfrey.
Zuckerberg also shared the three things that made Facebook different, which double as valuable insights for businesses in an era of disruption.
Launched with exclusivity: “There is endless content out there, it’s harder than ever to get out content noticed,” Zuckerberg said. But when Facebook first started, it rolled out to just a few colleges and would gradually roll out to others. Often they waited to see which colleges asked for Facebook, before they’d roll out to them to create a sense of exclusivity.
Real identities: “People may be used to real names on the internet today, but in 2004 people used screen names and pseudonyms and were mostly anonymous,” she said. “We all know what happens when people can be anonymous on the internet.” Facebook decided they would do something different and require people to verify their identities on the site, and it became a place where people would behave.
Focussed on culture: “Most companies I advise focus on landing the next client, the next win – everything external facing,” she said. But I realised the value of putting your company first. When you don’t have a product, you’re only as good as the talent that you’ve got, so you need to focus on your company, your talent, your culture.