This is Sofie Sandell’s talk from TEDxUCL, June 2013.

The text of the talk is below, it’s transcribed, just have that in mind when you read it.

“Digital Leadership, Empowering New Ideas”
By Sofie Sandell, June 2013

Can you imagine a world without internet?  Can you imagine just one day without electricity?  For me, that would be extremely painful.  I would hate it.  I just flew back from a conference this morning in Monaco and we ere 2,700 delegates there and I would not been able to communicate during these days without my phone, without my computer.

I was an early adapter of social media and this was before Facebook, it was before LinkedIn, and I could early see that you can use it to share your knowledge, connect with people all over the world, and show your skills.

I believe that we can all use the digital tools available in a smarter and more creative way and make a bigger impact. In the future, innovation is likely to involve digital media, it is likely to involve new technologies, and how well we are progressing in our lives and with our organisations will depend on how well we are welcoming new ideas, how we are opening the doors, and saying hi to the new ideas when they are there.

Some people might find it a bit scary to use new digital ideas.  They might find technology a bit… pushing them outside their comfort zone.  And there is a risk that you would say no to good ideas.  Just because you do not know what is possible.

I believe that in the future we need leaders who know how to use the digital tools, who know how to use them in the best way possible.  You know, we have loads of problems in society.  Just think about infrastructure, environment, education, and healthcare.  All these systems have huge problems and we need to find solutions.  And future leaders, digital leaders, digital influences they knew how to welcome new ideas and then they knew how to use them and they knew how to make the most of them.

So, who do you think will come up with new digital ideas? It’s just gonna be there suddenly? I believe that the new ideas are likely to come from people like you, people like me, because we are using lots of digital tools and lots of technologies in our daily life and we can see how what we are doing personally can fit in to what we are doing in our organisation or where we are involved.

It is about us, how we are learning about the idea development process, how we are leaning to say yes to things that are there because if we come into a pattern where we are saying no to different ideas too often, we are going to be left far, far behind.  In one of my past jobs, my job was to introduce new digital technologies and the reactions were quite different.  Some people absolutely loved it.  They thought it was amazing.  Other people they are most skeptical and they were most likely to say no.  And I had to come out with a strategy about how to nurture the new ideas.  So, the first thing I did when I heard a new idea when we are working something I only share it with people I trusted.  I had a few people around me who I knew were positive and I just share my idea with them and that was like getting padding and extra layer of padding around my idea.  And then also the idea was equipped with a first aid kit.  Then I was also very aware about my own language and behaviour.  I was very positive to other people’s ideas and everybody wanted to share everything that was new with me first.  I became the honey pot which the bees were drawn to and that generated lots of creative power.  Then when I’ve done that, when I have been “padding” my idea, making it a little bit stronger, it was ready to be shared with a wider audience.  I did that with more confidence because I knew my idea could stand on its own legs.  Even the most critical people, you know, that kind of people who think that there is a gold medal for being the most critical, I could even share it with them, and the idea would still be alive after that meeting.

I like to look at an organisation as the life of a human being.  You know when organisations are born, they are hungry, they are curious, they are doing new things every day, an enormous development.  Then the organisation becomes a teenager.  They are quite cheeky, they like hanging out with their friends, they are trying out new things and looking for their own identity, always connected online, using digital tools all the time, knows everything about the latest and what is going on.

Then some organisations can enter the life of an adult.  Adults are slightly more resistant to change.  They knew who they like to hang out with and they knew who they like to build a relationship with. They are aware of the many digital tools that are there and that they should use them but they are not really sure how to use them.

Then some organisations become institutionalized.  They become oldies and they knew exactly what they want for lunch, breakfast, and dinner.  They are not being anymore in relationships.  They know what they like.  They know what they do not like.  They have heard about the digital world and the digital era but they are not using it that well.  Examples of companies or organisations that became institutionalized oldies can be Kodak, in the UK, it could be HMV.  Could be Blockbusters.  They denied that the digital era was here and they did not listen to new ideas.

So, the cheeky teenagers, those are my favourite companies, what do they have in common?  Well, they have a few things in common.  They are likely to change the way that their industry makes money.  Think about Skype.  What Skype has done to the telecom industry?  They totally changed it.  Changed the landscape, invented a new way of income streams for the businesses that are now active in the telecom industry.  The cheeky teenage companies are also likely to build new platforms, invite all their friends to them, use technology in a new way, and let other people contribute to their success.  An example of that could be Amazon’s Kindle.  Anyone in the world can be a publisher.  You do not have to wait to publish a book.  You can publish it online.  Thanks to Amazon.  Another way that they are successful is that they have visible leaders and they are also very good at listening to ideas.  They are listening to the customer’s ideas and their staff’s ideas and they are looking after them.  An example of that could be the website that Starbucks set up.  Anyone who is a customer can suggest new idea, you can follow up the new idea, and you can see how it is developed.  It is totally transparent if they take it on board.

So, how many more average ideas does the world need today?  I would say none.  We do not need more mediocre ideas.  We need great ideas. But idea development can be quite complex and in the beginning it can be quite hard to distinguish whether it is a great idea or is it a bad idea because from the worst idea, the worse, craziest, most outrageous idea, the most beautiful inspiration might arise.  Your idea that you are working on might just an ugly duckling that need to find his new friends.

So, are you suggesting new ideas and how are you welcoming your ideas?  Do you dare to become a cheeky teenager?  Thank you.

Social Media Q&A

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Email: sofie@sofiesandell.com

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