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Revitalising Organisations Through Shifting Mindsets

Update your thinking by stopping and listening

This paper highlights some of the key messages put forward by the speakers at Quora’s final Smartworking Summit of 2015. It has been written to reflect the positive messages for change that resonated from the summit, and will be used within education as a resource to enhance young people’s understanding of the direction for business in the 21st Century.

Quora Smartworking Summit 2015

Translating the messages from business leaders to young people entering the workplace Burning2Learn is an education provider based in Kent that enhances young people’s transition between education and the workplace. We encourage young people to take an active role in preparing for their own futures and help them tune-in to new roles and expectations of the business world. As businesses and organisations within our own industries, we all place sustainability at the top of our agendas. Burning2Learn believe that young people are our planet’s greatest resource. They are, however, becoming caught up in the haze that lingers above their bridge between their purpose in education and finding employment. In many cases, they do not know where they fit, how to utilise their talents or how they can make strong impacts within the business world. Our aim from attending this fantastic event was to learn more from the people who are already making positive change happen within their own industries. We will then transfer the key messages back into the classroom, to better align education thought-processes with the current directions of the workplace.

We all know that many systems of old, that are continually used, are no longer viable or sustainable. We also know that levels of engagement have dropped around the world, causing concerns for sustainability and growth in business. How do we re-engage and re-energise staff? Are our workplaces stifling talent and innovation? The forward thinking nature of this summit enabled the panelists to speak honestly and encouraged the audience to listen with open minds. Here are the four key areas of discussion:

Four Axes: • Leveraging innovation in the workplace • Adjusting organisations to stay relevant • Sustained High Performers • Shifting mindsets away from Silos

AXIS I: Leveraging innovation in the workspace We often think about how we work, but how often do we think about where we work and the effectiveness of that environment?

The building itself is a tool for leveraging innovation. Think about what you want to use that space for and how it will reflect your values. In her presentation, Julie strongly emphasised the importance of involving the people who are going to be effected by change in the decision making process.

Channel 4 Head of Corporate Services, Julie Kortens, talked about how the set up of a building can enable a turn around in the productivity and engagement levels of a workforce. She said,

“Take the people on the journey with you – if you don’t, they’re not gonna like it. That way, even if they don’t like the end result, they were part of that journey and will be more flexible moving forward.”

“There’s so much interest now in sustainability; and how everything that we do impacts productivity. But what happens on the ground? What happens in the building?”

Workplaces are fundamentally important, so think about that space. Think about what you want to use that space for and how it will reflect your values. Additionally, Julie also expressed her view that ‘agile working is ok’, as long as you ensure that people still feel as though they belong.

Julie explained that although a building may ‘look good’, if it’s not flexible and if it restricts employees from a creativity perspective, that doesn’t quite work in terms of getting the best out of the people. “You can make people happy by the place they sit in.”

“It’s not just a building, it’s their home, so think about what the occupiers want. It’s what works in the workplace that matters, not how shiny the tools in it are”.

How do we get the best out of people through the smart design of the building? Julie and her team spent a lot of time researching different set-ups within their company’s building and gathered feedback from staff in a range of areas. Following this, they were able to make changes within the building itself that positively impacted staff. These are some of the changes that were made during this process:

• Anybody who had a desk now sits by a window. Feedback reflected that people stationed in the middle of the room were really demotivated as they couldn’t see the light. •

All technical kit was moved below ground to the basement.

• A boardroom was moved to the basement. To encourage

participation they ran a staff competition to rename the lower level of the building so that it felt less like a basement. Once it became affectionately known as ‘Base-camp’, people began to take part.

Julie Kortens, Head of Corporate Services, Channel 4 and Chairman BIFM


Agile Workspaces Another speaker to comment on agile workspaces was Group Property Director for Rolls-Royce, Ian Campbell. Ian has spent a lot of time looking at the changing nature of work and how effective agile workspaces can be. He stated, “I’m actually quite optimistic about the workplaces of the future... I’ve seen an adoption of a mindset change in manufacturing and we are beginning to come to an end of the 19th century concepts that we have used up until now”. By 2020, Rolls-Royce are hoping to have 15,000 employees in agile workspaces. Ian reflected that in terms of the journey so far, he believes it is going well. Rolls-Royce have had a great Senior Management buy-in to this concept,Caption which has helped pave the way for other employees. Having persuaded the Chief Executive and his team to move into agile accommodation, Ian explained that there is now a ‘scramble across the world for every single team to go agile’, as they don’t want the Chief Executive to turn up and find anything different! “We have tried to put as much time and energy into the worker as well as the work place. Usually, we tend to put the workplace in first, then the processes and then the worker - which just doesn’t seem logical to me in terms of working and learning.” Ian certainly gave a great example of how one organisation is moving forward positively in agile working conditions, commenting that staff satisfaction ratings are very high, and that they have had ‘nothing but compliments’ in terms of the space. “Space utilisation is going up, costs are all coming down!” Ian Campbell, Group Property Director, Rolls-Royce

Summary of Axis I: “It’s not hard to change the way a building feels. Work closely with your HR team, show them what you can do and then take them on the transformative journey with you,” Julie Kortens. - Suggestions for your work space: All meeting rooms become communal, Executive meetings room made of glass, every space in the building becomes bookable, ensure that you have mechanisms for people’s feedback and when there’s an agile working set up, introduce magnetic panels or areas that can be used as whiteboards (these are all things that make people feel like they can own that space!)

AXIS II: Adjusting organisations to stay relevant Acceleration from a simplistic world to one that may soon have robots doing jobs for us - how do we start to handle this massive transition? In many cases, it’s fair to say that the business world is trundling along with a legacy model that has surpassed it’s levels of endurance and effectiveness. As such, now more than ever, is a time for fundamental change in our general model for business as a society. Though this may seem daunting, some solutions are starring us in the face. One approach to handling this transition states that it can be achieved by ‘liberating employee happiness’. This view was put forward by Barry Flack, Head of Talent and Engagement for popular high street clothing store, Primark. “The people aspect of business is phenomenally important to the success.” Barry believes that the way that people behave and culturally interact within an organisation is a huge contributing factor towards its success. A notion in which many businesses struggle to prioritise on their agendas. “We are still pumping leaders into organisations who are taught all the wrong things at school!” In his view, people, business and society are all stuck practicing the same ineffective criteria which cannot be sustained, from a people point of view, in the way that it has up until now. Therefore, the model and thought processes need to be adjusted.

Organisations need to create the circumstances that will enable them to keep constantly changing themselves.

How do we adjust organisations to remain relevant in an ever-changing world? Barry believes that organisations need to create the circumstances that will enable them to keep constantly changing themselves. He suggests that this could be achieved through thinking more open-mindedly. “The best thing you can do is embrace openness. How can you put all of those mantras away and get a CEO that is comfortable with not knowing? This is what leads to enlightened organisations that can start working on the big complex issues.” Furthermore, Barry reinforced the importance of the business leaders acting from a moral standpoint. There is a responsibility on all of our shoulders to make this transition happen, so there needs to be an adjustment in our mindsets as leaders towards out commitment to long term sustainability. It is unacceptable for a CEO who at the end of his two years demonstrates the mindset ‘let the next one deal with it.’ All this does is create a divide and a disconnect across the organisation. Leaders need to be intrinsically motivated in their role throughout its duration. Summary of Axis II Section 1: - Ensure that people feel valued in the workplace - Be open to change because it is inevitable - Stay motivated in your role, it is purposeful - Look at the bigger picture and realise your contribution towards it matters - Make decisions from a people-centred standpoint

Barry Flack, Head of Talent and Engagement, Primark

Equipping people for the future is difficult, but if you start from the basis of trust it is achievable. Making people strategies and business strategies one in the same In Sandra’s view, bringing people and business strategies together into one forward-thinking agenda is a crucial way to bring about long-term sustainability. “We’re not going to achieve this in a silo perspective”. She reinforced the effectiveness of moving out of silos and into collaborations, stating that ‘nobody is perfect but as a team we can be’.

Getting people energised about change Although many of us are aware that there are changes that do need to happen in the way that we approach and perform in the workplace, there are always going to be stumbling blocks that hinder an organisation’s ability to change.

As a team we can all find a purpose that enables us to flourish individually and collectively. People will feel more valued as part of this team and will therefore be more motivated and better engaged in performing the tasks that they are set.

So how do you look at change and get people energised about it?

“When people have the right ethics behind them they will bring the results.”

Former HR Director, Global People at EY, Sandra Dillon put forward an interesting approach towards unlocking barriers for change through trusting and valuing the individual. She stated,

Failure must be supported Equipping people for the future is difficult, but if you start from the basis of trust it is achievable. Sandra also emphasised how supporting people when they fail is essential. People are always going to make mistakes but there will be a lesson to take away from that experience, which will strengthen you moving forward.

“We spend a lot of time training people but we’ve got to work on trusting people that they will do the right thing to the best of their ability”. In addition, Sandra also believes that it is about collaboration and being around people who bring other perspectives to the table. She suggested working intergenerationally to further enhance the collaboration process; with four generations adding to the think-thank you’ll also gain life experiences.

“We’ve got to support them when they fail, sometimes people will fail. We shouldn’t worry so much about the future, we should be building and sustaining, I think people will adapt.”

Summary of Axis II Section 2: - Working in silos will hinder long-term sustainability - People need to be supported when they fail - Team work and collaboration is the way forward - Listening to other perspectives and viewpoints brings added value


You’ve got to build trust and show people that failure isn’t a bad thing; you can learn from it, and that’s what brings innovation.

AXIS III: Sustained High Performers Nourishing Sustainable High Performers Although we put millions into buildings and hours into teaching employees leadership skills and how to understand marketing, how much time and energy do businesses put into developing the individuals themselves? Former Chairman of Unilever, Paul Preston believes that the amount of time we spend on ensuring that people are sustainable is ‘really low’. Paul used an analogy of a plane taking off to demonstrate his point, and said that whilst you can watch a plane speeding down a runway, how do you know that’s is going to take off? How to do you know that the pilot is fit and well to take off?

Tips for innovation

“Did anybody talk to me about how I should look after myself to ensure than I am a sustainable high performer?”

When asked for tips on innovation, Paul simply said, “We all fear, it’s getting people to feel like failure is ok that’s important.”

Is it safe to simply say ‘well, it’s got a jet engine and wings so it should take off?’

He went on to explain that encouraging people and not getting cross with them when they do fail is imperative for growth and innovation.

He commented that organisations should be more mindful of this notion, as it is something that affects all employees and ultimately the sustainability of the business on the whole. Soft Skills vs Hard Skills

“Leaders who encourage you to try new things and then yell when you get it wrong are so harmful, that is what stifles talent and innovation!”

The issue of soft skills versus hard skills; hard skills are relatively easy to find, whereas soft skills are something that we need more of.

You’ve got to build trust and show people that failure isn’t a bad thing and that you can learn from it, that will bring the innovation.

“We all know that you have made your mind up about people in 6 seconds, and that you then spend 54 seconds justifying that opinion.”

Summary of Axis III: - Be mindful of people - Enhancing Soft Skills is key - Encourage people around you to try new things - Don’t be afraid to fail

Paul fears that people are not being helped enough to improve their soft skills, the repercussions of which can be costly on their growth in the workplace.


Encouraging people and organisations to move out of silo mindsets and into collaborative partnerships for positive change in society.

AXIS IV: Shifting Mindsets away from Silos We are all learning all of the time Like many of us, Paul is looking at changing the thinking and mindsets of organisations. In his presentation he put a particular emphasis on the way that people in organisations should give feedback, stating that we are all continually growing and learning all the time.

Great British Bake Off judge, Mary Berry has a soft and reassuring approach to feedback, and will say, “I love your idea, I love your ambition, the texture is great. I don’t think that you baked it for quite long enough, but I can see where you were going with this!”

Even as a seasoned CEO of several start-ups, Paul admits that he is still learning. He spoke fondly of his career stating that he had a ‘great time’ and ‘loved it’, and reflected on one of the biggest lessons he learnt along the way, “I had loads of learning put into me, I was taught thousands of things - and yet I didn’t know how inadequate I was. I learnt how much I didn’t know, it was frightening to realise how much I really didn’t is about business.”

“Feedback like that is terrific!” Paul expressed.

Paul strongly emphasised that there will be times in all of professional lives where we don’t get it right - and on those occasions, the feedback that we receive can be critical to how we then move forward.

Additionally, Paul also added his view that people who can give and take good feedback, both in teams and individually, tend to be the more high performing groups and people.

The strength from this approach comes from the kind delivery that makes the recipient feel as though you only have good intentions to help.

“People that work with feedback sustain and thrive on feedback for many years.”

Feedback - Are you a ‘Craig Revel Horwood’, or a ‘Mary Berry’?


When it comes to giving feedback, there are ways of doing it effectively and ineffectively.

Paul introduced his audience to a concept he calls ‘feed-forward’ which is a way in which employers, trainers, coaches and colleagues can help others to change their behaviours, and to change the way that they work and think about the tasks that they are performing.

Paul presented the audience with an example of how not to do it, and referred to examples of feedback that Strictly Come Dancing Judge, Craig Revel Horwood has been known to use on participants:

“The next time you give feedback, ensure that you feed-forward – ask yourself, do I want to be a Craig or a Mary?”

“That was stompy, all over the place and an all round disaster darling... The only good thing about that was the end.” Describing Craig’s approach, Paul explained ‘that’s not feedback, that’s horrible and disastrous.

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Contrastingly, he then referred to another famous face who’s approach to feedback is much more useful.

01322 614000 or 8

Nigel Morland, CFO, Sheffield Haworth

Are workplaces stifling innovation? “There’s nothing worse for stifling innovation than having one person in one office in one country for a long period of time.” Nigel Morland, CFO, Sheffield Haworth, believes that what we need to enable innovation are agile minds when talking about agile workplaces. People who can react with a broader mindset than their particular function will be purposeful and valued. He used an example of talking to receptionists when conducting job interviews to see what their views and first impressions on the candidate were.

Breaking down silos; on a personal and departmental level In terms of breaking down silos on a personal level, Nigel again reinforced the effectiveness of encouraging people to try new things so that they aren’t just restricted in their own every day roles. “I wish we could do more to send them out to the world and see how they get on.” He later explained how this shifted mindset can also be scaled up and applied to group situations. “When HR team get together monthly, invite somebody in from another department four times a year, to give positive feedback from a different point of view.”

Summary of Axis III: - We are always learning and can’t expect to get it right all the time - When giving feedback, ensure the recipient feels as though you have good intentions - Encourage yourself to go beyond the borders of your own roles - Contribute towards breaking down silos by introducing ways that different groups of people can work together

Participant’s views

We caught up with participants throughout the summit to ask them about their interests in attending the event and what messages were resonating the most with them. Here are some of their responses: “One of the biggest things I learnt from today was that failure is ok, as long as you take something from your experience.” “The stumbling blocks for transformative change in offices and work stations come down to the unchangeable mindsets of the individual.” “If I were to fix the problems with young people in the workplace, I would get the young people in front of a panel to discuss the problems and allow them to take part in the decision making.” “It’s about collaboration and partnership, rather than going it alone.”


“Instead of the decision coming down to one person’s choice - who actually doesn’t have the time to be involved in the process but wants to make the ultimate decision - open it up and allow more people to be involved in the ideas and planning.” “I’m fascinated by the workplace change. Now is the time, more than ever, to make that change happen.” “We’ve got to work with forward thinking companies that are trying to move forward.”

Young People’s Voice Burning2Learn attended this summit with a team of young people who, in a few short days, produced this report. Here are some of their reflections on the summit: “How do you prepare young people for jobs that don’t exist yet? Stay relevant. You’ve got to keep on the ball that’s the best way to develop.” “Young people need to be flexible, proactive rather than waiting for it to happen to them. A lot of people I know expect their parents to do something about it for them or for a job to get handed to them, but I don’t think enough young people nowadays know that if you want to be successful you need to go out and be proactive.” “Use your downtime wisely.” “People are more approachable in different environments. I learnt that it is important to create a community in business, that way people will feel valued.” “Feed-forward! That’s the big thing for me that I have learnt from today.” “Business is not about how much money you make it is about how you make the money. It’s about being ethical in the way you treat others and trusting people to make the right choices.”

“As a society we have had feedback drilled in to us from a really young age with school teachers speaking to you negatively, saying ‘no that is not the way to do it’... That is not helpful feedback. My biggest thing I took from today is to keep being motivated and don’t settle for second best. Always think forward, ask the questions and think about what you want. After all, it is ok to fail.” “You don’t have to be disheartened about making mistakes, we are all human.” “Alway keep listening, making connections and keep articulating what you want and what you wish to gain out of a situation, even if it is just to yourself to be aware of.” “To be successful you need to stay relevant, change is good but you must keep up to date. relevant and trendy but authentic and traditional this is the key!” “Keep asking questions and don’t be bashful. you cant be afraid to talk to somebody, it might lead to better things and if you don’t somebody else will.”

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Our greatest thanks go to Quora Consulting for bringing the remarkable Smartworking Summits For our team, attending this summit was an incredible experience that has taught us many things. The young people that attended this event were given access to the corporate world where they interacted with business people, learnt about the direction in which the workplace is heading and were able to hear first-hand accounts of the experiences of top industry professionals. Consultancy Organisation, Quora, look at the changing nature of work, how that impacts practices and how we work. CEO John Blackwell states that, ‘It’s something that impacts all of us”, and from what we have seen at this summitit certainly does!

Moving forward with positive action Quora does a phenomenal job in stripping down the barriers in business and encouraging people to speak from the heart. They have shown us all that open dialogue is the way forward and have set an indisputable example of how we can all make the changes that we talk about a reality. Now it’s up to the rest of us to take ownership in contributing towards solving these issues and bringing about action based solutions moving forward. To learn more, we invite you to get in touch with our team via: 01322 614000

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Revitalising Organisations Through Shifting Mindsets  

As consultancy organisation Quora delivered its final Smartworking Summit of 2015, the Burning2Learn team reported on some of the hottest ch...

Revitalising Organisations Through Shifting Mindsets  

As consultancy organisation Quora delivered its final Smartworking Summit of 2015, the Burning2Learn team reported on some of the hottest ch...


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