Thoughts on leading the way

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This year we’ve used Lead The Way as our theme at J. Boye. At our 200+ J. Boye group meetings this year and in both our Philadelphia and Aarhus conferences, we’ve used this as our theme and heard from speakers and digital leaders that are genuinely changing the game in their industries and workplace.

In September, I saw this poster outside Zurich Airport as an advert for a financial services firm with a similar message that the rules are changing. Clearly Lead The Way fits across sectors and countries and to me it is all about both a hunger for learning and navigating constant change.

To most J. Boye members, simply trying to keep up can be extremely challenging. How are we supposed to be leading the way with anything, when most of the time we are struggling to not fall further behind?

In this posting, I share some of my personal reflections on the theme as well as the slides used for my conference opening of the J. Boye Aarhus 16 conference on Wednesday, November 1.

A conference theme that fit on multiple levels

As some might remember, Making It Work was our 2015 theme. Internally at J. Boye, the year 2015 was very much about making it work after a difficult 2014. We implemented many important changes, focused on step-by-step improvements and finished with a year of record member growth.

Industry analyst Tim Walters and co-founder of Digital Clarity Group, connected the dots with this external view on Making It Work: Does anyone really understand customer experience management?

When we decided for the 2016 conference theme, it was a mixture of curiosity and need for change, that made us settle on Lead The Way. Curiosity as we wanted to explore those that have successfully navigated through digital transformation and hear their insights. Need for change as we realised that digital leaders no longer considered websites as their main frontier and instead took a much broader look – beyond channels at bigger goals and impact.

Making it work was not enough, both internally and externally as expectations keep going up.

The song remains the same

Change is difficult and it is tempting to keep things as they are. Why don’t we just delay this project until next year and keep playing the same song in the meantime?

There is something extremely valuable to learn from the perspective of a child, which one of my favourite cartoons sums up pretty well. As a part of my conference opening, I showed this 1-minute video from the kids film The Croods:

Learning from the best

One of my personal highlights of what has been a busy 2016, was in the early summer, when I had the pleasure of a 3-day tour to some of the German J. Boye groups with information management expert Martin White. This brought new perspectives to our progress and the thinking on leading the way as he talked about:

  • Taking a strategic perspective, which clearly has to be more ambitious than simply making it work

  • Information quality and information disaster, with a few examples of how things can go really wrong

  • The term wicked problems, which is a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognise. Sounds familiar to your everyday work?

Here’s a few tangible examples of how our theme made us change things at the Aarhus conference earlier this month – our 12th since the start in 2005:

  • Instead of yet another year with an intranet conference track, we focused on employee engagement and tomorrow’s workplace. We still talked intranet, but in a wider frame and also looking more at the challenges of 2017 and beyond

  • New conference tracks focusing on agile business, business development, customer experience and making marketing technology work. Again with an important focus on looking beyond the day-to-day office challenges.