There was a collective enlightenment seen in the audience as Shane Owenby (VP & Managing Director, APAC, Amazon Web Services) shared an office hack.
Picture: Cult Furniture
Bring an empty chair into unproductive meetings
Flashing a photo of a red office chair, he told the predominantly PME crowd, that in Amazon meetings, if the discussion wasn’t turning out right, someone would bring in an empty chair and remind everyone that the meeting is about the customer.
Photo: Shane Owenby at NTUC U Future Leaders Summit 2016
A simple hack like an empty chair got people talking, because I think in our quest to do more and be more, sometimes we put our KPIs over our customers’ needs.
Photo: Amazon’s Flywheel
Mr Owenby also advised us, if we ever lost sleep, it should be over worrying about customers, not competitors.
Photo: Amazon’s equation for innovation
He gave insights into why Amazon is so successful, such as putting talents into two-pizza teams (any bigger and it’ll be too big), having open spaces for people to interact at work and even having “Bar Raisers”.
Bar Raisers are Amazon staff who sit in job interviews together with the HR and hiring department to ensure the candidate is really worth his salt, and isn’t just hired because he is from the same country or background as the hirers (sound familiar?).
How can we be ready for the future?
During the next dialogue with NTUC Sec-Gen Chan Chun Sing, he shared how he asked a group of accountants whether there would be more people in accountancy in future.
Graphic: Accounting app from Google Play
Half said there would be fewer people, because technology would take away their jobs which can be automated.
Half said there would be more people, because they saw potential in using technology to connect to overseas customers and get more jobs.
The question is, do we have the mindset of the first half (lose my job) or the second half (get more jobs)?
Graphic: Amazon Web Services
If we have a bias for action (a leadership trait of Amazon), how can we get more exposure to prepare for the future?
Stackable just-in-time modules
One thing that NTUC is looking into to help tomorrow’s unemployed into tomorrow’s jobs, is creating stackable modules to help working people get skills just-in-time (versus the traditional way of taking years to develop degrees/diplomas and more years to train students).
Graphic: NTU-NTUC courses
There’s a $200m fund to create these customised stackable modules, and one school which has already launched these bite-sized modules with NTUC is NTU.
Exclusive Insider Peep into MNC innovation centres
Another initiative that was announced is the NTUC Innovation Exchange, where invited participants are given the opportunity to visit the Innovation centres of various MNCs.
Graphic: companies in NTUC Innovation Exchange
Some of these centres are not open to public, but through collaboration with NTUC, 20 invited participants can attend each Innovation Exchange learning journey.
Graphic: NTUC Innovation Exchange schedule
Read more about the thoughts of the CXOs behind the Innovation Exchange here.
What is the average working person missing out on?
Assuming the average person works in an SME (as SMEs hire 70% of working population), getting insights from bigger companies is really rare.
But after doing a bit more networking in the trade, and knowing that professional associations and companies are tying up with IHLs, government and NTUC (to create more opportunities for the average working person to move up the value chain), the next challenge is a communications one:
How do we help the man-on-the-street know where all these resources are?
Also published on Medium.