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  • Writer's pictureHugo Pinto

Tech, people and culture: 3 silver bullets from 16 workshops in 2017

2017 has been a very busy year – it’s good to be in demand, but difficult to keep scaling. So far, I’ve ran 16 workshops and done 3 keynotes – that’s more than one of these engagements every week.

It’s interesting to see that even if you stick to your geographic remit, today’s economy leads you into foreign countries – this is something that I love, but also something I dislike, especially because I miss my wife, kid and cat so much!

The locations where I've held workshops in 2017

The locations where I’ve held workshops in 2017

One of the perks I get in my cross region, cross sector role is to work with senior stakeholders from very different cultures, creeds, locations and industries.

And currently, there are a lot of similarities across ANY such company – regardless of where, how willing and how prepared for change they are. I’ll try to share the ones that were most evident in the first 3 months of 2017.


All CEO’s have a clear mission to turn their companies into tech companies between now and 2020. They are pushing the C-suite to make bold decisions to make this a reality.

Blockchain, Augmented Intelligence and Autonomous Vehicles are in most of the workshops, and everyone understands that value chains are shifting and some links don’t have a place in the next versions of their ecosystems.

All of these seem to be enough to generate intent, but all the hurdles, processes and red tape continuously erode an already thin tolerance to change from employees that have been on a “digital transformation” for the past 5 years.

The pressure is undoubtedly on the CIO, who even though already struggling to maintain some level of control over shadow IT, technology gaps and simplification – now has to deal with recurring cyber attacks, more tech than they can test, and the ultra-digitisation of the physical world – and still accommodate the budget cuts to maintain the overall company profitability.

Single technology environments are a recipe of failure, and open architectures powered by APIs which explore as a service options give more flexibility to tackle the inbound challenges of uncertainty.


Strategies, architectures, policies and next steps are always attainable if the people in the room are up for the challenge – and there are some visionaries painting the invisible elephant in the room, and moving the needle at an extreme personal effort.

Some thrive but most don’t, and it is well documented by the success rates of CDOs (Digital and Data). The rules designed for efficiency and profitability 10 years ago, are the chains holding large corporates back, and preventing them from adding mandate and capital to intent to shift from a certain but “known” crash course.

Trying to own everything and do it all on your own is the biggest mistake, and not planning for constant adjustment is the second biggest one. These two are followed by not wanting to know what you don’t know, and guiding yourself merely by what your organisation recognised or accepts.

Businesses need a Agile/DevOps capability for business modelling and customer engagement reinvention.

I still hear a lot of “that’s not how we do things”, or “legal will never approve it”, or my favourite “we need to start by doing a viability study”.

The image below reflects what (all) organisations need to be reminded of.

This was framed on the hallway of a shared office space in Jakarta, Indonesia.

This was framed on the hallway of a shared office space in Jakarta, Indonesia.

It’s (still) all about people

Some companies are making a real effort to create the right conditions to be able to hire, motivate and retain the right talent – a new breed is flowing through the arteries of these beings, but some are still being attacked by old white blood cells.

The companies that are making progress are the ones investing, trusting and empowering the new comers, but with a caveat – only the newcomers that work with the existing organisation have an actual impact. And these tend to create a following of likeminded people – even the ones that were hiding behind the screens of old opaque organisations. And sometimes, organisations that are not as big as the industry leaders actually leapfrog the pack.

Because most of the workshops I lead tend to have Lean and Design Thinking principles, there is always an environment of openness and it is a beautiful sight to see everyone feel as empowered as their line manager to say I disagree and then being given the chance to articulate and defend their view.

The naysayers don’t stand a chance, since normal chain of command and information blockages don’t apply – which means you don’t enforce rules, you incentivise outcomes.

Taking one day off work to participate is challenging but productive

Taking one day off work to participate is challenging but productive

The other key point around people has to do with age and background of the leadership team. I’ve been working with a few visionary companies that have the b$#ls to put 30/40 year olds, with a digital business background in charge of businesses, and these are certainly making an impact. The known evil is no longer the safest option, and in today’s economy the cost of not doing anything is far greater than the risk of failure.

“It’s better to shoot yourself in the foot than having someone shoot you in the head”

Don’t embrace failure, don’t fail fast – learn as fast as you can and keep moving, especially if your organisation is a commoditised, asset driven or low margin business.

Chairmen & CEO’s HAVE hard days ahead

If there was ever a time to sacrifice earnings for investment in the future now is the time, and the window is not as big as some might think. I especially see blockchain and AI sweeping through whole revenue streams in industries such as banking, insurance, logistics, telco, energy and even public sector.

And this will not happen in 15 years, it’ll happen in three to five years. The pace of change will never subside, markets will never again stagnate, competition is omnipresent and will soon be omniscient – I hope we’re ready (that includes myself!).

The matter of fact is the people building the ecosystems of the future will own the playing field for everyone else, and with disruptive technologies like Blockchain and Augmented Intelligence having such potential for exponential growth, 6 months is going to become a gap difficult to close.

“If you’re not at the table, you’re a part of the menu”

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