November 2018

10 Things We Learned About Diversity in Digital Innovation

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In the digital environment, innovation is all around us. The industry is built on the desire to push boundaries. The heroes of the digital world are those whose innovation has literally changed our world whether it’s platforms, products or services. Ask people to name a technology innovator and you may get Jobs or Gates, Brunel or Edison. They could have centuries between them but one thing they will probably all have in common is that they will be men.

However, innovation is changing. It is now less about tools and infrastructure and more about personalised services. Our Innovation Award winner Hannah Bowden led the event trying to uncover the secrets of innovation. Hannah has successfully merged her past experience in psychology, AI and community regeneration to lead innovation at BetterPoints, which designs and implements digital behaviour change interventions for health in the UK and Europe.
Hannah was joined by our two panellists Mike Altendorf, NED, investor and advisor to a range of tech and digital businesses and Adel Du Toit, IT Lead for User Experience at Boston Consulting Group. Missed the event? Don’t worry, below are the 10 things we learned:
  1. You need a mixture of skills, aptitudes and personality types within a team to be able to make the most out of innovation. Hannah added ‘It’s not a women or men thing it’s all about the right mixture of traits’.
  1. Digital needs to be mixed with the human side of innovation. Adel adds ‘it’s all about blending people and technology, that’s when it works best. You need to be able to understand the problem and empathise with it.’
  1. The way we innovate is changing. The MVP, fail fast approach is still relevant however these days it is all driven by the data which means greater insight and less failure. Mike adds ‘Building learning loops is crucial in successful digital innovation and transformation. Discovery, finding proof, growth, getting to market these are the core loops that interact. It’s about reducing uncertainty as much as possible.’
  1. Data, data, data. Data is a very important part of innovation. When you start to see what data means and where it can take you, that’s when it can become something very exciting. Hannah says ‘Understand the data and work out what it means and what it can change. Apply that data into something useful.’
  1. Moving away from the fail first approach isn’t easy. ‘It takes courage to look at the data in a different way. Evaluate why it didn’t it work, and what to do differently next time. It will lead to quick fire development.’ said Hannah.
  1. The cultures in start-ups are changing. Mike says ‘The focus is now about values and getting the right people. Moving away from the ‘just do it’ mentality. There is also a focus on LAU (learning as usual) rather than BAU (business as usual) as a founding principle. You need the right organisational models to make this happen’
  1. We need to invest in the future, children need to be able to learn transferable skills for the upcoming job market. Mike adds ‘We need to ensure our young people are employable.’
  1. Be able to be open about honest with your team and colleagues. It’s ok to show emotion at work. Adel said ‘what I’ve really seen change recently, is it’s ok to bring feelings to work. Its ok to cry (it’s not healthy to hold it in) be more honest with the people around you’ Hannah adds ‘stay honest, stay true to yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. People will respect your integrity.’
  1. You need to be determined in innovation. Whether you are a man or woman. Getting investment for a start-up can be tricky. Mike adds ‘You need to be resilient when looking for investment, you might get a few setbacks.’ Helen adds ‘don’t give up, the doors will open for you.’
  1. Passion needs to be at the heart of innovation.

A final takeaway…“First to market seldom matters, rather first to product/market fit is almost always the long-term winner”. Andy Rachleff, Co-founder Benchmark Capital.

Well…what a great event that was.

The event was kindly hosted at the Bright Innovation offices, our brilliant marketing partners. It was a great event, we’d like to thank the panellist and everyone who attended, and we can’t wait for the next event on 24 January, sign up now.

Remember, if you have any thoughts on diversity in innovation and would like to share them with us please comment below or join us on Twitter or Instagram. As always, we encourage our community to offer ideas for our next 10 Digital Ladies book! If you still haven’t got your copy of our first book, Career Hacks, you can register for a copy here:

Nina Lovelace10 Things We Learned About Diversity in Digital Innovation
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10 Things We Learned About Building a Healthy Company Board

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Although it needs to happen at a greater scale, women are increasingly creating or joining company boards, whether they are founders building their own startup boards, or executives or non-executives joining established businesses. Little debate, however, focuses on how women or indeed men can prepare themselves to build and lead, or join and contribute, to an effective board that both helps drive a business and creates a challenging, fulfilling experience for its directors. The latest 10 Digital Ladies event tackled this subject and more in ‘Healthy boards for healthy directors; Creating the perfect company board for you’ on November 8th 2018. This event was hosted by Nina Lovelace, cofounder of 10 Digital Ladies, with the panel discussion being led by our Inspiring Board Member Award winner Celia Francis.

Celia is a proven pioneer with over two decades of experience leading innovative emerging technology companies. She has extensive experience working across strategy, investment, product development and marketing, and is now setting the direction for Rated People, an innovative online marketplace connecting trusted tradespeople to homeowners. Celia was joined by executive board coach and HR expert Carrie Birmingham.

10 Digital Ladies and the expert panel tried to uncover the issues in this session and here are ten things that we learned. A big thanks to both Celia and Carrie for their honest and constructive advice.
  1. Boards can look very different within organisations of different sizes. Startups might not call them boards, but they are people that come together to make the strategic decisions to run a business. More rigour is required for more established businesses, however. Celia explains, ’Boards are ultimately responsible to the investors and shareholders and are there to also offer governance and strategy.’
  1. To run an effective board, it’s important to spend time focusing on the important topics and not getting caught up in the little things. Bikeshedding, as it’s known, is spending disproportionate time and energy spent over an insignificant or unimportant detail of a larger concern. Carrie says, ‘Board agendas often try to tackle lots of things in one meeting, Be rigorous about trying to tackle too much in a small space of time.’
  1. For a board meeting to be effective it’s important to have certain recurring topics and review what is driving the business results. Celia says, ‘We cover topics such as the CEO report, CFO report and finance review including budgets and KPIs.’ The best boards often do pre-meeting prep to ensure time is maximised for quality decision making.
  1. A good preparation for board life to to get invited to attend a board meeting as an expertise in your field or department, to present on a topic or project. However, it’s important to understand what is expected from you before you go in. Carrie suggests, ’It’s important to talk to someone who has experience in presenting to the board. Make sure you are prepared, get good at presenting your ideas quickly and prepare yourself for challenging questions.’
  1. Having the right skills and vision are both important to cementing your seat on a board. Carrie says, ‘Ensure you have functional expertise and develop the skills to have conversations in that environment.” She also adds, “Also, what is it that you want to achieve? Have a purpose. Getting on the boards, is not the means to an end.”
  1. You also need to be able to positively challenge others, if you are to achieve either executive or non-executive positions. Boards want someone to ask challenging questions to help them make better decisions. You also need to be able to think strategically, not getting drawn to solving the operational problems of the business, says Celia. You need to be able to challenge and be open to challenge.
  1. Joining charity boards as non-execs or trustees can be good training ground for executive or non-exec board life. For corporate boards you are still expected to have deep areas of knowledge and expertise at running departments and managing teams, the panellists agreed. There is no shortcut.
  1. However, if you want to become a board member don’t be afraid to let people know. Own your career trajectory. Celia adds, “Let everyone know what it is you want, and have the skill set and experience to back it up.”
  1. Who to tell, however? Networking plays an important role in securing a role on the board. Celia says “You need to be friends with and network with venture capitalists – they have access to board roles.” It’s also important to have a strong network of peers you trust around you when you are running a board, to let off steam with.
  1. There is evidence that more boards want women on them as executive or non-executives, but can struggle to find women to take up those roles. Celia and her immediate peer network get regular calls to join new boards but often have to turn them down due to lack of time. Perhaps VCs and other headhunters aren’t aware of the full network of women able to take up these roles or where to find them?

We’d also like to say a special thank you to Claire Davenport, CEO of Hello Fresh, for her excellent expertise and interaction during the event.

We hope that helps if you missed this illuminating event! To summarise our learning, to secure a position on a board it’s important to have the right specialist skills, target the right level of board for your abilities, be able to challenge others constructively, do it for the right reasons – and have a strong network to access the opportunities in the first place. What’s stopping you!

The event was kindly hosted at the amazing Rated People offices in Blackfriars and supported by the brilliant people from Bright Innovation, 10 Digital Ladies’ fabulous marketing partners. It was a great event, we’d like to thank the panellist and everyone who attended, and we can’t wait for the next event on 22 November on Managing Work/Life Blend, sign up now.

Remember, if you have any thoughts on Healthy boards for healthy directors and would like to share them with us please comment below or join us on Twitter or Instagram. As always, we encourage our community to offer ideas for our next 10 Digital Ladies book! If you still haven’t got your copy of our first book, Career Hacks, you can register for a copy here:

Nina Lovelace10 Things We Learned About Building a Healthy Company Board
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