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Wilfully independent world blending

Wilfully independent world blending. Hi, I’m Amber. I love to solve business problems with technology, and make your socks go up and down in the process. I’m a wilfully independent (maverick) [1] tech entrepreneur of a startup. I chose to build my startup in Minneapolis, MN.

The centre region of the US where I live, is affectionately and derogatorily called ‘flyover country’. Every country has their ‘flyover country’ areas, right? These are areas where people can’t imagine a company would willingly locate or individuals would choose to live. Maybe you live in one too.

These are supposed to be the places that people leave, right? However, I’m proud to be from flyover country. Living here began my genesis for learning how to blend worlds.

Mavericks can be found anywhere.

Just like our physical location can separate us, our business functions can do the same. Different functions, businesses, and industries can feel like they are completely separate worlds. Planting one foot into two different worlds allows for a bridge to be built unifying them.

Each area brings unique skills and gifts. Understanding different perspectives and values allows room for innovative solutions to grow. It’s more collaboration, and less confrontation. Let me share a few examples for how this has worked for me and can work for you.

I’ve worked in technology for 20 years. My undergraduate degree is in technology. Curiosity about the business world led me to get a finance MBA as well. Mavericks often find the need to learn many perspectives to chart their best path. We often choose to spend our careers and shape our important work in unlikely places.

Working in technology

Before launching a startup I chose blending finance and technology within the SAP industry for large companies. I was a businessperson that chose to work inside technology organisations. This allowed me to help the businesses I worked with make the right choices for their technology. Appreciation for context and complexity by understanding different facets provides depth and more balanced perspectives. This is why we need to periodically plant ourselves in places that provide new perspectives.

The blending of all these areas allows us to provide guidance and advice with context. We can understand what it is like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. This is important when attempting a wilfully independent world blend. In my world, I had to be careful not to get stuck in technology solutions for every problem. It’s tempting to get stuck in that place of what we know because it is a well-worn path. But it creates internal mental barriers to innovation if we stay there.

There’s an old saying that when you are a hammer every problem looks like a nail. Stepping out of our world to understand other perspectives gives us a variety of instruments to choose from and new paths to pursue. It may also illuminate paths that don’t even exist yet.

How can we turn these new paths and perspectives into innovative solutions? Problems and opportunities framed with a lens of empathy for the perspectives of the participating parties expands the conversation. It removes us from the shackles of “requirements” for how something is supposed to be approached and shifts perspectives into the world of solutions. Solutions that help solve business problems to achieve the intended outcome.

A practical example from my SAP world. I spent many years helping Accounts Payable departments optimise payments with their banking partners. I observed that collaboration often occurred only inside an organisation. Once something left our internal processes, it became someone else’s problem.

Have you experienced this too?

In this case it became the banker’s problem. In my world, we would collaborate by including both the business departments and their banking partners to determine the best solutions. We look at the process and the outcome for solving the problem and openly talked about the representative perspectives. Sometimes this meant our partners were building new solutions and processes, sometimes it was the internal organisation making adjustments. We looked across the process to shape the approach. We used empathy to understand the perspectives of all represented in that process.

Mavericks also realise that going with the flow isn’t going to bring about the changes we desire in the world. We may have to chart a course that simply does not exist yet in order to fulfil our mission. For me, it is resisting the technology trend of “move fast and break things”. That philosophy has repercussions that all our societies continue to see and experience.

We embraced a different lens when we built Bella Scena. Over the course of two years, we spent a significant amount of time understanding what was happening in everyday productivity.

What was holding individuals back? Was it time, habit, skills? The product ultimately built was is a unified calendar, to do list, and meeting management application. Mavericks understand we cannot provide the best possible solution without the perspective of those involved.

How do you actually develop this lens of empathy?

This lens of empathy comes from human centred design. Many of us are simply wired to ask these questions, but there is actually a formal discipline this comes from. We can learn and improve our skills in order to unearth new innovations. We used this process when building our product to include customers through the product build, instead of after everything was done. Consider how solutions change when different perspectives are brought into the conversation at an earlier stage. This is another key to unlocking innovation.

All of this comes with a warning though- once you embrace wilfully independent world blending, it is likely you won’t want to go back to your previous approaches!

Consider how you can you step into the world of one of the groups that is peripheral to you. How can you more deeply understand their challenges? Fresh perspectives provide fresh insights. Your next big innovation may result when you blend your worlds.

Footnote

[1] Germain, J (2017): ‘The Maverick Paradox: The Secret Power Behind Successful Leaders’, PublishNation

Amber Christianhttps://wonderlysoftwaresolutions.com/
Amber Christian is the founder of wonderly software solutions. Prior to wonderly, Amber spent 18+ years implementing SAP solutions for Fortune 500 companies. Based on her experiences as a small company working with a variety of Fortune 500 companies, she uses human centered design processes to build solutions that address the unique productivity and collaboration challenges in today's work world. Amber is a regular author and speaker on a variety of technology topics.

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