Blogging · Digital · Google · housing · innovation

Why all orgs should ‘Default to Open’

We’ve all heard of the term Open by Default, right? Its the principle by which governments and increasingly organisations make its data and information accessible to the public by default, unless there is a sufficient justification to explain that greater public interest may be at stake, as a result of disclosure.

For most organisations I would argue that a default to open stance is vital. It helps to build stakeholder relationships both internally and externally, instills a ‘nothing to hide here’ mantra and genuinely promotes open network building.

This is no different in the world of Housing where there has been an every increasing drive towards transparency, with the most recent example being the publishing of organisational gender pay gap information to the public. This is combined with the ever changing world of work meaning that current and future employees more than ever value open and flexible organisations, where they can feel part of a ‘high trust’ culture.

Social Media:

Consider the use of social media. Turn back the clock to before Twitter and Facebook and how many people would have considered telling anyone (and everyone) in the world almost anything. Now its commonly accepted that people and organisations use multiple social media platforms. I for one use quite a few platforms, with the vast majority of my use for professional purposes.

But the key point here is that I use Twitter in particular as my form of ‘default to open’ approach, in that I will share what I am working on at work. This inevitably runs the chance of some negative (and positive) comments, which at times can be quite difficult to accept, but I can hand on heart say that I am a better professional for having these conversations and debating the points.

Open Source:

android

Another example of default to open is the rise of the term ‘open source’. Open source is often used to describe projects or software where. Google’s Android is one such Open Source Project. Some would argue that one of the main reasons for its success has been the fact that Google opened up Android to developers for free and as a result, it has become one of the most used operating systems for mobiles and tablets ever. Chances are you own at least one device that runs on Android.

Closer to the world of housing, but similarly open in nature, there is an ever increasing range of open source 3D print floor plans available on the net.

Think of almost anything and you can find an open source version on the internet.

New Digital Age:

The NDA

Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen cover much of this and more in their book titled ‘The New Digital Age’. The book is a fascinating and challenging read, and for anyone truly interested in digital, I would recommend reading it. At times it is downright scary, but much of what they write about is an important view into our likely digital future. If you think default to open is a challenging concept, this is the just the beginning of where digital things are heading.

What about you?:

So how about you?

  • Do you work in an open organisation?
  • What about your personal approach to work?

I would love to hear your thoughts – please leave a comment below!

Advertisements
Business · housing

Two years and counting…

IMG_0345

After finishing the second year of my MBA studying through the Open University, I finally have some spare time to write a few blog posts.

So for this one, I will be again reflecting on what I have learn’t to-date from undertaking the course.

The first thing is probably obvious, but it has been a huge challenge. Not just in terms of the workload, but in terms of time management. There have been days and weeks where I feel like I have been solidly working or studying and doing nothing else. There have also been days when I would happily have thrown the towel in. But I have survived.

The second thing is that I have again broadened my knowledge. I’ve just complete the Corporate Finance module which has well and truly tested all students. I would be willing to bet that the drop out rate is pretty high during this course, culminating in the 3 hour written exam at the end. Again, I have survived (just).

The third thing is that again my horizons have been stretched. I purposely chose the course as I wanted to move outside of my comfortable ‘Housing’ bubble and build a network of colleagues beyond my usual circle. Along with this, the course content has stretched my horizons as well, to talk much more about profit, CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and the big wide world of corporate finance. OK, so I may never be involved in floating a company on the stock market, but I have a much better idea of how companies are valued and the many intricacies involved.

But overall, I have survived the end of the second year. Roll on the third (and final) year.

 

Business · housing

An MBA (and Housing) – a perfect fit?

IMG_0345

What relevance does an MBA have in the world of Housing?

As some of you will know, I have been studying towards an MBA (Masters in Business Administration) through the Open University.

As I am now half way through the three year distance learning course,  I thought it was an opportune time to reflect on a few of the key learning points from the MBA so far, to help answer the very question of its relevance. Here are the main ones:

I have had to step outside my comfort zone.  I don’t just mean in terms of the course content here. I am studying with a much wider range of people than I would normally work with; people who work in the for-profit sector, internationally, in family run businesses and global institutions. This is definitely not my usual close-knit Housing network and the diversity of students was one of the key reasons I signed up for the course.

I have a toolbox of useful business tools and concepts. I can now take these into my working career, whether that is ultimately within or outside the world of Housing. An MBA does not give you all of the answers, but it certainly helps to provide a wider and much deeper understanding of business. I feel more equipped than ever to tackle almost any issue at work.

The boundaries between for-profit and not-for-profit are difficult to define. The MBA course has brought this home to me on an amazingly regular basis. In Housing we are increasingly talking about profit, while in the next breath making it clear to anyone who will listen that we are not-for-profit. In a lot of ways, the definitions don’t matter – its more about having clarity of purpose within an organisation and ensuring that this is transmitted throughout the organisation.

There is a big world beyond Housing. I can’t stress this point enough. The MBA has shown me a taste of the big wide world out there beyond the Housing sector and I would argue that this ‘wide world view lens’  can be used to challenge and shed new light on old existing ways of working and thinking. I am the only ‘Housing’ person in my group and have really enjoyed being questioned and challenged on some of the Housing norms I have come to accept. I would like to think that I am a much better professional for it.

For me an MBA certainly has some relevance in the world of Housing. Sure, it might not be for everyone, but if nothing else it gives me a toolbox of theories and concepts with which to challenge the old ways of doing things, with a sound base knowledge of business which goes beyond the normal Housing world.

I for one am looking forward to taking this forwards in the rest of my career.

einsten

Digital · housing

A Single Digital Strategy?

digital_vortex

For my last blog post of 2016, I thought I would write about my experience to-date of developing a single Digital Strategy.

As anyone who has read my blogs before will know, we wrote a one-page Digital First Strategy some time ago.

DFStrategy
Our current Digital First Strategy

This was a challenge in two ways:

  1. Our strategies had always previously been several (or more) pages long;
  2. Would it make sense in just one page.

The reality is that the one-page strategy was quite successful. It has led on to our organisation developing future strategies with a ‘no more than 2 pages’ mindset. This is definitely progress.

But one question that always troubled me, was why we had a separate Digital First Strategy and Digital Inclusion Strategy? Actually, to me they were quite different strategies, not least because in both cases we were starting very much from scratch. But now that we have successful delivered the first phase of our Digital First project and we have a new Digital Officer in post, it seems the perfect time to merge the two in to one Strategy. This is serving as a useful time to review where we are up and work out where we want to go next.

One of the acid tests will be whether other staff and customers also understand the Strategy. This is something we will have to test in the new year. But so far, the ‘stop and reflect’ stage, and the ‘draft a new one-page strategy’ stage is working quite well.

Another, arguably more important acid test, will be whether the new Digital Strategy actually results in any positive changes on the digital front. For that, we will have to wait and see what 2017 brings!

 

Google · housing · innovation

Innovative thinking in #ukhousing

Stevejobs

I have been reading Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography over the past few months. It’s a fascinating read and although Steve Jobs character is hard to like a lot of the time, I really like his approach to business, constant innovation and striving for the best. There are a lot of Jobs quotes I like, but this one in particular jumps out:

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”

It has got me thinking. Where is the truly innovative thinking in #ukhousing ? I’m talking about truly innovative thinking, that stretches the currently accepted norms and could truly move the sector forwards?

What strikes me most is the backdrop for Steve Jobs’ success; it’s not just about his drive and innovation, but the team of really talented people he brought together and worked with. So, following this thought through, it stands to reason that one of the keys for innovative success is to build an ‘A Class’ team (to use another Job’s quote).

How many ‘#ukhousing organisation’s truly create an ‘A Class’ team around innovative thinking? One where they sweat the detail, but under a truly challenging vision of the future? To borrow an idea from another favorite innovation organisation of mine – Google – their ‘big ideas: 10x thinking’ approach to work is also a great way to push the boundaries of what’s possible. Its by thinking big that you get big innovations.

So much of this goes back to getting the right building blocks in place in an organistion – the right culture, the right leadership and building an ‘A Class’ team.

So, going back to the Steve Jobs quote, would you consider yourself an innovative leader or a follower? Are you truly pushing the boundaries wherever possible?

 

apprentice · housing

The Power of the Apprentice

IMG_1918

I was lucky enough to be a mentor for the first ever Welsh Apprentice Challenge, run by Community Housing Cymru at their Annual Conference in Cardiff in November 2015.

When I was asked to be a mentor, I jumped at the chance. It sounded like an interesting opportunity and represented a chance for me to be challenged and stretched.

The truth is that being a mentor for the Welsh Apprentice Challenge was an absolutely fantastic experience. The challenge itself involved 15 apprentices, nominated from Housing Associations across Wales, the opportunity to develop a campaign from scratch to recruit more young people into a career in Housing. I was one of three mentors with five apprentices in each team.

Here are three things I learn’t over the few days:

  1. Apprentices have an amazing amount of enthusiasm: They are not constrained by their previous experiences of working in Housing. They have a can-do rather than can’t-do attitude which is infectious.
  2. If you want new ideas, employ new people: I was amazed that in the first 20 minutes of meeting each other for the first time, the team I was mentoring had introduced themselves, come up with an idea and how they would action it.
  3. The improvement over just two days was staggering: It was amazing to see how the apprentices grew in confidence over the two days, from being really worried about speaking, to speaking confidently as a group to over 100 delegates.

I don’t want to give too much away regarding the idea my team and the other two teams came up with, as they will be covering in an up-and-coming issue of 24 Housing Magazine, but suffice to say that all three campaigns were very compelling, having been well thought through and executed.

The feedback from the apprentices is that they thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and I am certain that they have all gained skills and experience that will be really useful for them in their ongoing Housing careers.

I only wish I could have bottled up their enthusiasm and ideas for myself!

housing

I’m a Housing optimist – what about you?

glass-half-fullIs there a place for optimism in Housing today?

I have been mulling this topic over for some months now. My initial thought was that there certainly is room for optimism and being the optimistic person that I am, I still think there is.

A Winston Churchill quote seems particularly pertinent for this:

“The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

It is tough to be optimistic in Housing today. Universal Credit, lack of supply, ever increasing demand, rent reductions in England (I could go on) – there are lots of issues facing the world of Housing. But taking Churchill’s quote, we’re faced with many difficulties today in Housing, but isn’t each difficulty also an opportunity?

I think we need to stay as optimistic as possible, despite all of the difficulties the sector is facing. That’s certainly what I’m trying to do day-to-day, especially in providing leadership to my teams at work. It’s not the easy road to take, but working in Housing, do we really ever get to take the easy road? I’m yet to hear anyone working in Housing who chose Housing as being an ‘easy’ profession!

OptimismThe dictionary definition above of optimism fits well with this. For me its all about hope and confidence about the future of Housing. Despite the challenges, I’d argue that as a sector we will rise to the task and aim to excel.

The image at the top of the page is one that I use quite often in my powerpoint and prezi’s. It also forms a key part of my Twitter bio background. Quite apart from being exactly how I approach work on a daily basis, I really do think that the ‘glass is always full’ approach is an important one worth remembering and worth savouring. Mind you, I have on several occasions been called the ‘eternal optimist’ (which I obviously take as being a compliment) and one of my most popular catchphrases at work apparently is ‘it’ll be fine’!

But what do you think about this? Is Housing the place to be as an optimist? I’d be really interested to hear your views………………..