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An interview with Jenni Lloyd

Despite being a super smart maelstrom of strategic mega-ness and purveyor of high-grade brainpower, Jenni is pretty rubbish at blogging. This is frustrating as Jen is always working on, or mulling something incredibly interesting, and I want to share this with the world. Therefore I suggested to Jenni that through an interview type format I could extract all sorts of interesting stuff and display for the benefit of you, the reader.

This is an experiment, and as such there are some potential pitfalls; Jenni wanted me to point out that some of her thinking is fairly nascent, and some of the below may lose something in translation. Also, I tend to say ‘super’, ‘mega’ and ‘cor blimey’ more than Jen so if they appear frequently blame me.

Here goes…

Ross: So, what have you been working on?

Jenni: We’ve recently won a pitch with an exciting new publishing client; can’t say who at this stage but the whole thing is personally interesting as I’m a big reader and my husband was a bookseller for 12 years. Having seen what’s happened to newspapers and music, it’s fascinating to get involved with a business that’s being disrupted so radically by connected technology and behaviour.

Working on the pitch we had to really think about relationships – publishers have been always engaged with authors and retailers, and the retailers held the relationship with the reader. Digital platforms like Amazon and Kindle are fundamentally altering the way books are found, bought and consumed – and calling into question the whole relationship model.

We’re going to be working together with Publisher X to introduce and encourage innovation  and build a ‘learning by doing’ mindset into their culture. This is a big challenge but hugely exciting as it links a few things I’ve been thinking about. The first is ‘frugal innovation’ – something I heard about on the Radio 4 programme ‘In Business’. It’s a way of opening the door to ideas from unconventional sources by bringing together small groups of people with different skills, to complement one another and develop innovative solutions to problems using the resources the company’s already got. By coupling this with an Action Learning approach we can also encourage accountability and tackle potential pitfalls like competitiveness or knowledge-hoarding or silo-thinking. Action Learning is again a new concept for me, but one we’re experiencing live through the internal programme we’re running to look at ways to increase profitability.

Ross: What are you thinking about?

Jenni: Systems thinking – I’m currently reading a book (which I’ve not actually finished yet!), but basically it’s about finding your way through complexity by understanding the interconnected-ness of things – that everything causes everything else.

I’ve been using it to understand companies as systems – as a set of things (people etc) interconnected in a way that produces a pattern of behaviour. Stuff can happen outside the system – markets/technology/politics can change, but how the company responds will be a result of its own characteristics – the system causes its own behaviour. So a different company (or system) would respond to the same event in a totally different way.

If you want to change the behaviour of the system there are different places you can intervene – but there may well be unexpected consequences! The most effective lever is the mindset of the system, but there are other places to intervene below this such as goals, empowerment, rules, information flows and feedback loops.

This got me thinking about another Radio 4 programme (I love Radio 4!) about Indian call centres, and how the workers within them – educated, middle-class young people – could be compared to Victorian clerks. They are a new digital proletariat, educated but without autonomy and required to work within rigidly defined roles. Within call centres, systems are often driven (ambiently or explicitly) by speed of resolution rather than engagement, and therefore this system has an impact on the quality of the customers experience of a company, and the quality of workers’ lives.

I’m also reading Daniel Pink’s book about motivation – Drive, inspired by a fine blog post by Tommy Nixon (who’s spending an extraordinary amount of time thinking about work now he’s off travelling the world!)

Ross: What cool stuff have you seen?

Jenni: I love Caine’s arcade – not so much the way it was documented, but the fact that this child has spent so many hours recreating something. Reminds me of my own children and the custom Top Trumps they make of their favourite film characters. Making things with your hands still rocks :)

I also really liked the Nando’s / Santam battle.

Ross: What are you bored of?

Jenni: Social media – well, I’ve noticed my behaviours changing, particularly with Twitter. I’ve gone from needing to read everything from everyone I follow, to only using it for saved searches. It’s lead to me using Facebook more, and also I’m far more likely to document something using Instagram than Twitter.

That said, recent events such as the London mayoral results, MCA’s death and Drew Benvie’s run in with the cows all came to me via Twitter.

So, there you have it.  A whistle-stop tour of the mind of Jenni Lloyd, NixonMcInnes’ strategy director. If you have any particular questions for Jenni, let us know in the comments below.

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