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Five fundamentals to reimagine the workplace and why "worklife balance" is a setup for failure.

For every survey I’ve read stating that over 70% of people are looking forward to getting back to the office, I’ve read another stating 70% would be willing to continue working from home.

These results should come as no surprise, as it is not - and has never been -  a black and white issue. Shopify’s recent news, along with many notable tech firms, to be digital first and 100% remote will create much needed discussion but it does not have to be an “all or nothing” proposition.

This shift in the nature of work (e.g. teleworking, remote work, gig economy, virtual work, flexible work programs) was occurring way before the pandemic. Many organizations – granted mostly in high tech -   such as Buffer, GitLab and Zapier – which were already 100% virtual, are proving that the model does work and some of their practices can translate to more traditional industries and corporate cultures.

However, what we are seeing now is a crisis-induced...

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How Trust will Shape the Future of Work

I was speaking to a friend last week who works for a large software company that, in pre-pandemic reality, had no remote work options. In the last staff update, the CEO admitted that with 100% of the staff working remotely, there has been no significant drop in productivity (other than the first two weeks of the “adaptation” period).  

There is a pervasive belief or perception that if you can’t physically see someone sitting at their desk doing work, you just don’t know if they are getting anything done.  Seth Godin said it simply in one of his last blogs: there is only three ways to tell if people are hard at work:

  1. The boss can watch them go to meetings and they can watch each other in meetings
  2. The boss can watch them sit at desks in an office or
  3. We can make promises to each other and keep them.
  4. I will add an insidious fourth way, inspired by a recent New York Times article stating that demand has surged for employee monitoring software...
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How to harness your big ideas, especially in a time of crisis

Which type of leader are you: a visionary or an operator?  Every business needs both as one cannot succeed without the other. Very few leaders are able to see the big picture and manage the details.  

 Visionaries are those that see “what could be” and come up with new ideas regularly.  As an entrepreneur and CEO, I put myself squarely in the visionary bucket as I’m constantly jotting down new product or service ideas, new ways of creating value for my own business and for others. I journal every morning as a way to channel that energy and document my thoughts.

Generally, this passion has served me well. However in times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, this “idea engine” can go into hyper drive.   Why? Because visionaries tend to see challenges as opportunities. Opportunities to create solutions, adapt and pivot into new drivers of value.

The challenge is this:  If a visionary jumps on every new idea without...
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Three key questions to get your business back into gear and moving now.

In my conversation with other leaders and business owners who must adapt how they deliver products and services or must shift their business models entirely, there is one analogy that resonated with me the most: the hierarchy of needs. 

If you’re like us at Differly, most of our services tend to be at the mid-to-top of the pyramid of needs. Meaning if a company is doing fairly well in terms of stability and revenue, it now looks to scale and grow impact or reach. Perhaps they want to develop a loyalty program, accelerate operational efficiency, supercharge and modernize sales and marketing or develop a digital transformation road map. 

Cue COVID-19 and everyone is now operating at the bottom of the pyramid.  Meaning, if your product or services don't help to address the continuity of a business or address an urgent need, your pitch is likely falling on deaf ears. Even if you’re one of the lucky companies with rising revenues at the moment (we need you...

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COVID-19, the game changer that will push us all into the digital revolution.

COVID-19 is first and foremost a human crisis, requiring companies to protect their people. Amid this human impact, companies are also coming to terms with the impact of the pandemic on their businesses, in particular small and medium size enterprises.

The pandemic will be hitting small businesses the hardest. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) reported that 42% of surveyed SMEs depend solely on face-to-face contact for the majority of sales

COVID-19 might be the game changer that pushes us all into the digital revolution, digitizing services, and forcing us to shift to digital business models.

Although there are many more pressing issues, such as ensuring elderly parents are safe or balancing home schooling, while managing a business and a remote team (I am in the thick of all those things), challenging times also present opportunities.

Here are some concrete strategies to engage your customers via digital channels and potentially create new revenue...

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All future forward leaders share these five traits

I have come to realize that I have a high tolerance for the unknown. The unknown is risky but equally full of potential. 

I acknowledge that not everyone shares my  exhilaration for the unknown and admittedly,  too much of it for a prolonged amount of time is exhausting, for anyone. It's exhausting on our human brain, which seeks safety and survival first and foremost. The unknown creates fear. 

Considering the next decade however, the unknown is the new normal as we will witness the reinvention of virtually every industry. Great leaders have the ability to see ahead and somehow drag - or influence- an organization towards that vision. In his book The Prime Movers, psychologist Edwin Locke identified the core mental traits of great leaders such as Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, Bill Gates, Walt Disney. While they each had their own secret sauce,  he found the common element among them was the ability to envision a new reality and see past what worked...

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Why we Need Leaders with a “Digital State of Mind”

Just as Billy Joel coined the term “New York State of Mind”, the Fourth Revolution might be associated with a “Digital State of Mind”.  The major drivers of disruption – social media, big data, mobility (anywhere, anytime computing), cloud and now AI and robotics – have radically changed how we work, the nature of competition and customer expectations. With technology changing so fast, it is easy to think that mastering these drivers is the main path to success.  However, an increasing amount of research is pointing to the fact that leaders are the true differentiators.

In an article published in the Harvard Business Review in 2014, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, authors Didier Bonnet and George Westerman concluded that a leader’s capabilities had a huge impact on the organization’s capacity to fulfill technology’s potential. They offer as examples: the ability to develop a cohesive...

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The Benefits of Knowing the Gaps

For close to 9 years now, I've made a practice of regularly assessing my goals, both personal and business. After about 10 years into my career, I was finding myself getting caught up in a frenetic pace of daily/weekly to-do lists.  To counter this, I started to get up much earlier in the morning at 5 a.m  to journal, center myself and plan the day ahead. Once the kids arrived - we now have three under 9 - it also provided critical alone time.  But more importantly, this is when I started taking stock of my broader life goals. It may sound intense but it doesn't have to be if done regularly.

I focus on the lifestyle that I want to achieve and general outcomes I'm aiming for. For example some of my desired outcomes are freedom to travel, diversity of work and clients, constant learning and growth, total mind and body fitness.  I then look at my current day to day activities and see if they are aligned to those outcomes. Am I losing my way? If so, is it temporary?...

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Defining Digital

Five short years ago, if you were to ask organizational leaders to define their digital strategy, the answer would either pertain to their digital marketing efforts or be synonymous with IT. Today, “digital” refers to a more all-encompassing approach,  impacting technology choices, customer experience, organizational culture, leadership styles and of course business models. It’s no wonder organizations are struggling to define their digital strategy.

The latest PwC Digital IQ report suggests that in order to keep up with Canada’s growing commitment to innovation, Canadian executives must gain a better understanding of what it means “to be digital”. While 47% of Canadian leaders see “digital” as a holistic strategy, covering technology and innovation related activities as well as cultural and mindset shifts, 30% of them see it mainly as a customer facing activity.

Therein lies the shift. Organizations are still grappling on how to...

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Customer experience is everyone’s business. Four steps to becoming more customer centric

At its simplest, customer experience is your customers’ perception of how you treat them. What does it feel like to do business with you? Your “brand” is the sum total of all their experiences with your organization and every touchpoint matters. Your customers’ perception will impact their behavior, actions and ultimately brand loyalty, or lack thereof. Only when your business has defined what that experience or feeling should be, can it determine which processes, improvements and technologies are needed to support it.

In this hyper-connected era, one of the biggest challenges I see my clients struggle with across all industries is understanding the role of each channel on the path to purchase (or whatever your particular conversion point may be such as a renewal or a subscription).

Four steps to becoming more customer centric:

  1. Understand your customer. Develop personas (not just segments).
  2. Seek to understand and map the journey across your channels...
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