Ian gave us some excellent insights into the challenges many organisations, both in and out of the housing sector are facing, and how we must narrow the gap with out of sector innovation, whilst creating environments where failure is welcomed as part of a creative process in order to succeed. I have summarised the key takeaways from the session below:
Breaking the rules, remaking the rules post-Covid
We are still in the midst of a global pandemic and nobody knows exactly how things will pan out, which is going to be one of our biggest challenges as leaders. However, we should also see this as an opportunity because there are no guidebooks telling us what we can and can’t do.
DIN’s favourite strapline is ‘steal with pride’, meaning taking a look at other sectors, seeing what innovation is happening there and working out how to bring these ideas into the social housing sector. They are currently helping to set up ‘digital twin’ programmes, where housing providers test out different scenarios virtually in a risk-free environment before implementing them into real life situations, which have been successful in other sectors. They have also set up new networks as they pivot their company and adapt, one of which is an Intelligent Automation network. IA is going to be huge, and if your organisation is not yet looking at this you will definitely have to in the near future. The second is a PropTech innovation network. The UK housing industry is lagging behind other industry sectors when it comes to intelligent automation, property tech, and digitalisation, and we must catch up.
‘Nobody likes to be first; nobody likes to be alone’
We need to help leaders find the tools to tackle the challenges we are now facing. We are all learning as we go along, and we don’t want to try and go back to the way things were before. We spend most of our time on irrelevant things and Covid has highlighted this. We should drop things that no longer are valuable, but as we don’t have the data yet to make informed decisions, we need to get used to working with uncertainty and guesswork.
No one has an innovation budget in housing, because innovation involves failure, and traditionally, we can’t afford to risk that money. We don’t want to see an even bigger gap growing between housing innovation and other industries.
Rebooting the business
Now we are at the stage where we’ve torn up the rulebook post-Covid, we need to ask:
- What can drop straight back into the business?
- What should you drop back into the business?
- What should you stop doing?
- What must you keep on doing?
- What can be delivered differently?
’Any idiot can bring complexity to a process, but it takes a genius to get rid of it’
If things you are doing aren’t working stop doing them! Once you have done this you are left with what we must keep doing, and the question should be ‘how can we deliver differently and more effectively?
Failure is part of Creativity and Innovation
As leaders we need to get used to failing, because the law of failure dictates that most ideas will fail, even if they are well executed, but it doesn’t have to cost. ‘Pretotyping’ is a form of testing things out without spending the money, for example, the McSpaghetti test. Lego did not pretotype effectively and it nearly ended in bankruptcy. Once they remembered their purpose and focused on what the customer wanted instead of what they thought they wanted, they came back successfully from the brink and are now one of the most powerful brands in the world.
Covid has changed our perspective, particularly around the workspace, and we are not going back BC (before Covid). So how are we going to prepare?
Employees – We will have to pivot and adapt – Managers are not equipped to deal with Covid – leadership training is much more important right now
Technology – We must develop our digital workforce and processes, such as remote viewings, surveying, remote interviewing etc.
Office space – We are seeing space as a service as different teams and organisations use shared collaboration space, Community hub growth and other creative ways to work away from the traditional office.
Customers – How they want to engage and expect services to be delivered has changed. Clever use of technology ensures customers could use AI to have their immediate needs met, giving extra time and resources to support the most vulnerable with ‘real’ communications.
Organisation and people – The way we work is changing. Remote working means a new set of boundaries need to take place. The ‘always on’ culture is toxic and personal and team wellbeing must be prioritised by leaders now.
Operating at ‘Coronaspeed’ – Projects can be completed much quicker now virtually. The ‘low touch/no touch economy’ means we can no longer send people into vulnerable peoples’ homes and interact so intimately with many of our customers. We’ll need to understand and gather more intelligence by speaking to customers and collecting the data.
Recruitment – We can now recruit anyone from anywhere, the world is our talent pool. Onboarding in a remote world requires culture change and new skills. Leveraging social media to build communities is more important now and the application of videos to communicate is more necessary.
‘How do you attract the best people? – Give them the best problems to solve’
We will no longer have so many ‘permanent people’ but will take on experts short term more to kick start projects. Maintaining business culture is more important and the days of ‘we have a vacancy, lets fill it’ are gone – it’s much more important that person fits the culture of an organisation.
Automation and data science – Data mining will be key. The use of robotics – especially in customer contact and personalisation – will be much more important to ensure efficiency and accuracy, cater to demand and keep up with the competition.
The technology is already here, and we need to start adopting it
The rise of the digital worker will free us up to do the important and interesting things. SightCall are using augmented reality and video links to allow tenants to accurately report repairs or even repair things themselves. Housing organisations and trade operatives can use this process too, giving more choice to customers. Plentific uses AI to drop jobs into a virtual pool where people can pick and choose which ones they do. We need to be looking at what areas of our business we have lots of repetitive processes that could be freed up by chat bots and AI processes, and trying these things out to see what works for us.
Leaders who are good story tellers are the ones who stand out and bring life to their journey. Find your purpose and your strengths – start off with the small things, but do them. Dot be afraid to fail and learn. Share what you learn, try new things but know when to drop things that are no longer needed. Create a timeline for how long you will wait for a project to deliver. How will you adapt it?
It’s ok to fail because failure leads to innovation and innovation is important. Be more comfortable with failure and the things you learn from it.
With great thanks to Ian Wright, and to Vicki Haverson (t-three) and Dan Short (Greenacre Recruitment) for our programme creation and content.