Hanne de Mora:

055 – Hollywood or Bust: New Business Ideas from Other Worlds with Hanne de Mora

Hanne de Mora:

055 – Hollywood or Bust: New Business Ideas from Other Worlds with Hanne de Mora

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In this episode, we are joined by Hanne de Mora, Co-Founder and Chairperson of management consultancy organisation a-connect, to talk about innovation of the future of the world of work. Hanne is also a member of the Board of Directors for AB Volvo and the Supervisory Board for IMD Business School.

  • How Hanne and her fellow Co-Founders created new demand within the traditional industry of workforce and management consultancy services – and how Hollywood provided inspiration
  • How technology changes the consulting, executive education and transportation industries and how these forces also apply elsewhere
  • Why Hanne thinks it is important for business leaders to foster entrepreneurship within organisations through pushing responsibility for human resource and P&L management processes as far down the organization as possible
  • The top skill sets which Hanne thinks are essential to being successful in the future of the world of work

Key Takeaways and Learnings

  • How understanding the numbers – how does a business make money and what does its cash flow look like – will remain relevant for any future leader.
  • In a world of ever increasing pace of change the ability to course correct is essential.
  • Inspiration is not hierarchical – it can come from anywhere in an organization. And while mothers and fathers will happily talk about being inspired by their children there remains a resistance within organisations to gain similar inspiration from their cross-generational workforces.

Links and Resources Mentioned in this Podcast


*This episode is sponsored by a-connect


In this episode, we are joined by Hanne de Mora, Co-Founder and Chairperson of management consultancy organisation a-connect, to talk about innovation of the future of the world of work. Hanne is also a member of the Board of Directors for AB Volvo and the Supervisory Board for IMD Business School.

Hanne de Mora
Hanne de Mora is the Co-Founder and Chairperson of a-connect since 2002. She takes an active role in client service throughout a-connect’s nine global offices, helping leading global businesses to confront the future by increasing the pace & impact of their critical projects. Ms. de Mora is also a Member of the Board of Directors of AB Volvo and is on the Supervisory Board of IMD Business School.

What Was Covered

  • How Hanne and her fellow Co-Founders created new demand within the traditional industry of workforce and management consultancy services – and how Hollywood provided inspiration
  • How technology changes the consulting, executive education and transportation industries and how these forces also apply elsewhere
  • Why Hanne thinks it is important for business leaders to foster entrepreneurship within organisations through pushing responsibility for human resource and P&L management processes as far down the organization as possible
  • The top skill sets which Hanne thinks are essential to being successful in the future of the world of work

Key Takeaways and Learnings

  • How understanding the numbers – how does a business make money and what does its cash flow look like – will remain relevant for any future leader.
  • In a world of ever increasing pace of change the ability to course correct is essential.
  • Inspiration is not hierarchical – it can come from anywhere in an organization. And while mothers and fathers will happily talk about being inspired by their children there remains a resistance within organisations to gain similar inspiration from their cross-generational workforces.

Links and Resources Mentioned in this Podcast


*This episode is sponsored by a-connect

Welcome to the Innovation Ecosystem podcast. My name is Mark Bidwell. With me today Hanne de Mora who is amongst other things Founder and Chairperson of a-connect, is on the board of AB Volvo and is on the supervisory board of IMD. Welcome to the show.

Thank you, Mark.

So, let’s start with a-connect, and as you know I’ve worked with you in my time at Syngenta, and I’m curious, maybe you can tell us first of all, what led up to founding a-connect? Back then you were in a nice position with McKinsey and yet you founded a very disruptive business, so I’m interested in what led you to the conclusion that this was a good, sensible thing to do?

So, Mark, let me start by explaining why I left McKinsey because I think that’s important. I had a wonderful career at McKinsey, I was super happy, but I realized that I’m a true entrepreneur at heart. I started my first company when I graduated from business school, got royally screwed by the other shareholders and rightfully so. We were completely naïve. So, there was this urge in me to actually create something, and at that time I was, I guess, 42, and I said, ‘Either I continue at McKinsey and I retire at McKinsey, or I go and do something else’. There was this real urge of wanting to do something different, so that was the first thing. The second thing, what we realized out in the marketplace was that clients were asking for strategic advice, but they were increasingly asking for help to implement. ‘How do you actually execute?’ And it’s difficult because you have PowerPoint, you have lots of great ideas, you have a view on how you’re going to actually execute it, but to move a major organization, a tanker, is not that easy, so we felt there was maybe something to get done in that space. I call it, maybe, from PowerPoint to bottom line. On the other hand, we realized that there was a growing personnel segment. We weren’t really sure how big it was and whether it was really something that was sustainable, but we had a number of people who were actually starting to work for themselves. So what we call in a-connect terms ‘independent professionals’, independent by design, you have chosen to be independent of mind, so that means that you have moved into your career where you actually can bring some true expertise into a corporation. What you like to do is projects. You don’t really enjoy all of the bureaucracy, maybe all of the people responsibilities etc. You like to dig in and just go there, and do the project and then move on.

And when was this?

This was back in 2002. So, we started tinkering around this in 2001 and then matured the idea up until about summer of 2002. And then we just took a very simple business model in-between which is well-known in the temporary workforce industry, so the business model of the Adeccos and the Manpowers and the Randstads of this world, that’s what we set out to try to do. It sounded incredibly disruptive at the time but I actually don’t think we disrupted anybody in the industry to be quite honest, but really what I think we did, we created a new service and a new demand, a little bit like the low-cost airlines used to do way back then because they actually created a demand that wasn’t there. Now, today is completely different but I think a-connect was quite similar to that. We created a new service and we created a new demand. Of course, it was relatively unknown or hardly existing within the management consulting world so in that sense, yes, it was maybe disruptive.

You and your partners had credentials in the market place but what struck me – because of McKinsey, you were not only going after their clients but you were also going after some of their talent, or did you feel the market was big enough not to bump up against them?

So, number one – we didn’t really bump into the McKinseys and the BCGs and the Bains of this world. Also by design – because we didn’t want to go and do the hardcore strategy advice – there were certain areas where we might actually slightly run into each other, more in the execution type of work, post-merger integration, some of the restructuring, some of the cost cutting. But frankly, Mark, what we saw was that we were coming more often into organizations on the back of a larger BCG or a Bain piece of work, when the client said, ‘Now I have to actually make this happen’. So, in that sense, we weren’t really competing with them, neither did we really go after their talent because the typical profile of independent professionals in our network, which we have chosen to focus on, are the people who have been trained by the large consulting firms.

But had enough of it?

Yes, had enough of it, but also gone and done a line job. So, they had typically been hired by their preferred client to come and do something, done that for a number of years, and then realized that what they’re really passionate about, just like you’re passionate about innovation, they are really passionate about this specific subject and want to do project-based work. So, we didn’t really go after their talent either, really, I don’t think. You know, I’ve always said, because people ask me, ‘Who is your competition?’, and I say the biggest competition I have is actually the internal people in the larger organizations because often what happens, and still today, unfortunately, is that you take a little bit of who has spare capacity and put them on to the implementation projects which is not necessarily a formula for success.

Right, right. And so, you provide dedicated people with the right credentials and the right track record as needed for the organization’s specific circumstances?

Exactly. So, it’s in that sense – really think about it in two ways, Mark; it is a real plug and play. We still have a little bit of a challenge with HR and this is not a criticism of our Human Resources people but they often think about, ‘How do I hire?’ and ‘How do I build talent?’, and sometimes, ‘I buy talent’, but they never think about how to borrow talent. ‘Can you actually borrow?’ And then if I want to use words of today’s world, I can actually say that we have nothing else than evidence of a sharing economy, because an independent professional for a-connect can go and work with any large corporation for four, to six, to eight months. The next thing they do is for another corporation, of course, respecting a conflict of interest etc. They are professional, but, it is a sharing economy platform and we’re sharing talent.

Yeah, but back then that language wasn’t in common currency.


So, what was it that you saw? I suppose you touched on it, you saw client demand, you also saw this population emerging but did you have any glimpse of – because there are a number of players out there now and there’s a sense of having been a disrupter, potentially there’s disruption around the corner. So, what are trends now that are shaping this business that you’re in or that you founded, and how do you keep in touch with them, and how do you respond to them?

Yes. So, I’ll make an anecdote first, Mark, and then I’ll explicitly answer your question. So, the anecdote is the following. We went out and researched a little bit when we started a-connect back in 2002 and we found the Hollywood model, and what actually happened was that before the TV was launched massively so that we called it a TV shock, the movie industry was a fully integrated industry the way you and I think about it. They owned the halls where the movies were shot, the scriptwriters, the actors, everybody was on the books of the movie studios, and why could they do that? Because they were typically producing two movies a year. Now suddenly came the TV shock and you had to produce a show for every night and soap operas for every second night, so suddenly they needed much more speed and agility in what they were doing. So, what happened was that actually this industry disrupted itself completely. Everybody became independent, everybody became a freelance person, and the movie studios became tiny, a hundred people, and all they did was to combine the right people together, the right talent together to produce the project, the movie, and once the movie is done, whoops, they all disappear again and they reassemble. We felt that was actually quite a good analogy for what we were trying to do. And the platform, the movie studios, were making a certain margin, but everybody we looked at – we did the analysis of the economics as well – everybody earned their fair share in the process so that was a little bit of what we believed in, what we saw and what we thought we could do. Now, coming back to the explicit question, what were we actually seeing happening? Back in 2002, we have to remember the consultancy auditing firms all had to exit the management consulting – post-Enron and Sarbanes-Oxley they all had to exit, they all sold off etc., and that was also an opportunity for our side I think. I don’t think I was that aware of it but it was certainly there. Today, what are we actually seeing? The auditing firms are back full blast, and some of them are even focusing more on their consulting advisory service as they are on the auditing service, so that’s number one. Number two – the large consulting firms have broadened their play. They had to because otherwise, the economics don’t work and what is actually following up and being able to serve their clients, all the BCGs, and McKinseys, and Bains of this world, they really are building a much broader service portfolio. And then you have, with the technology and the explosion in terms of digital platforms etc, you have newcomers that are trying to disrupt, and actually, we got a proposal from somebody who started a company about 18 months ago and they were looking for financing and they were reaching out to companies like ourselves. It was really interesting to see because their value proposition and their mission is to disrupt a-connect and I said, ‘Holy shit’. We’ve now been around 15 years and we’ve suddenly become the incumbent in this industry which is a little bit of a scary thought. So, here to me again, talking a little bit about disruption and innovation etc., to me it is a lot about how you actually develop and evolve your business model, because it can be this technology that disrupts you, it can be an external shock that disrupts you etc., and being alert to what is going on I think is absolutely critical.

At that point of being alert, presumably you’re not waiting for a proposal or an investment opportunity to come in the door for you to know the world is changing and going after you, so how do you keep connected with where these shocks could come from? I’m just curious, what is it that you and your business partners do to keep connected with the speed of change going on around this industry?

So now you will laugh because I’ll give you, I think, an answer that you wouldn’t have expected, Mark, but I felt that I was pushing a wet noodle internally to get my colleagues to actually realize what was happening and what was actually feasible with technology.

I should imagine a lot of listeners will feel the same way in their organizations.

I’m sure they do and it’s interesting, a-connect is only fifteen years old. Can you imagine a company that is 100 or 150 years old and how they must feel? I got really frustrated because what we did, we went out and hired a young lady. We hired her explicitly to do a proper review, if you like, to go and really search what is out there and see whether there is something that we could invest in that could be interesting. The only constraint we gave her was that it had to do with the future of work and the future of workforce etc. After about 3 months she looked at a number of things, she came back and said there is an emerging opportunity around data scientists. And a data scientist as I have learned – it’s not necessarily a data scientist; they are data analysts, data strategists,  programmers, statisticians etc., but they all go under an umbrella of data scientists – and they typically enjoy working when they want to work. They want to participate in competitions on Kaggle, they sometimes want to work at night, they don’t necessarily want to sit in a big office, so we said, ‘Hey, there might be actually something to this.’ First, because we think we understand them a little bit. The other thing that we thought was that companies are all talking about artificial intelligence, big data, machine learning, so data scientists will be in high demand. It will be a really scarce resource I think, but it’s also very hard to know what I am going to hire for back to HR, who are then trying to hire and develop data scientists. ‘But do we need a data analyst or a data strategist?’ etc. So, what we did, we created a separate company called Certace. It’s based in Berlin and is not based in Zurich. At this point in time, it’s 100% funded by a-connect. It’s a team of three people, we have an advisory board and a proper board, and we actually have a platform up and running. So, we today have a platform for data scientists where they can be certified and we’re using machine learning so they answer a number of questions, and depending on the answers the machine will guide them more towards one type of data science, and they will do tests and get certified. We also do peer reviews to create a community, and they get them onto our platform, and then we are hopefully having clients on the other side. Some of those are now experimenting with a new type of sales tools to go much more digital than the old traditional model that we have at a-connect but of course, we’re using that old model as well, so we have a number of clients at the moment and again, it’s a matching platform. It’s like a dating platform if you like, so again we’re hoping to learn a lot from this startup that we now have and hopefully a part of that can disrupt our current business model, but I really needed to go and hire somebody in Berlin and not here in headquarters in Zurich.

Exactly, and we’re not talking about a fifteen-thousand-person company here; it’s lean and still has a startup edge to it, but nonetheless it’s interesting how you had to do something quite radical to create a platform for change.

Absolutely, and you can go back and think about analogies, and Nespresso is exactly that. Nestle needed to take it out. They even needed to hire somebody externally, which back then was very unusual for Nestle. What just happened is a different story, but that was unusual for them, and I think for many large corporations, Mark, is not only this human resistance to some of these innovations but I also think it is this way that we are reporting earnings when we are publicly traded. We have quarterly earnings reports or half year earnings reports. Most innovation and most new ideas actually fall through the P&L, and acquisition goes primarily through the balance sheets, so it’s so much easier to go out and acquire than actually pushing that innovation that requires funding internally. If you then take that element and put it aside, it’s slightly easier to think about it as a separate thing, so you set up a separate company etc. where you can have transparency. Off course, it has to go into the quarterly earnings anyway, but at least you see it is more transparent and you can also adapt the governance to an innovation like that, as opposed to fit into the big, powerful, cumbersome governance that you have. So, I understand CEOs and leaders – how do I balance this notion of innovation which is critical for the future of my company that I am leading on the one hand, but I’m also a large corporate so I do need certain structures, and those structures are important for that company to continue to thrive. It’s just like society; we need certain laws and regulations. Here we have decided to drive on the right-hand side, in the UK they drive on the left-hand side. If everybody could drive like they wanted to, we would have the chaos that you sometimes find in India. It’s the same thing for the large corporations; they do need certain structures, and how you actually balance that is probably not an easy task.

Because you are, as I said earlier, on the Board of AB Volvo and you’re on the Supervisory Board at IMD. Now, these are two industries – education and, in this case, it’s a trucking industry, right? These are undergoing enormous – well, people have been talking about these industries being transformed for a long time but it’s beginning to happen all over the place. As you sit in these organizations in these board meetings, how do you think about this tension between entrepreneurship and governance? And maybe let me put it in a different way; what do you see the CEOs or the leaders or the executive teams of those organizations are doing that gets the balance right? What are the ‘watch-outs’ that make you think, ‘Hang on a second, maybe we are over-focusing on the short term to the detriment of the longer term?’

I can reflect and ponder on what I see but I can add to that what I see with my clients as well, because I think, regardless of which industry you are in at the moment, they are all going through enormous change, even the insurance industry. It’s been the most conservative, traditional, long lasting industry in the world, and it’s true that education is going through enormous change, so the new innovations that you’ve seen in the truck industry around connectivity, electromobility, self-driving etc., creates really interesting opportunities. But what I have come to believe and what I see, Mark, is when you can put the responsibility and the accountability as far out in the organization as possible, so that any leader in the organization has a good understanding of their own P&L, their profit and loss, and they have a good understanding of the capital and they understand what I mean, they can also share the human resources. In that sense you foster entrepreneurship, and large corporations today, they are large corporations because there have been a number of phenomenal entrepreneurs leading these organizations.

It’s interesting that you say that. One of the people I interviewed earlier on was a guy called Professor Larry Cunningham and he’s the biographer of Berkshire Hathaway, not of Warren Buffett but of Berkshire Hathaway, and he said two things that really resonated. Number one is, it’s all about autonomy. There’s a very strong link which hasn’t been dug into academically yet between autonomy and financial performance, which isn’t very well understood but it is alive and well in Berkshire Hathaway. And the other thing he said was that every CEO of the 40+ operating companies who work for Buffett, they are all entrepreneurs, and even one of the largest companies on the planet today, it’s staffed by a group of forty or fifty entrepreneurs. So, both of those things are very counterintuitive when you look at the company, and the second part is what you’re saying.

Here, again, we’re speaking about the balance, because between, call it, hard core governance and the regulatory compliance world that we have – because if you really want to be, which you have to be, compliant and follow the regulatory environment etc., what you would actually try to do is put in a functional organization because that’s the easiest structure in order to manage those processes. But it hampers innovation, it hampers entrepreneurship, and it hampers who actually has true transparency and worries about customer service and the revenue that is attached to customer service, and the revenue that is attached to a product and the costs, that are attached to the delivery of that service and that product. In the end, if you have a functional organization, ultimately it’s only the CEO and the board that actually has responsibility for the P&L and that’s why – I didn’t know that it’s not a researched topic around autonomy and financial performance, which I find incredibly interesting. I hope somebody will explore that topic because I think there’s something really true to that.

Berkshire Hathaway, it’s a unique company in the sense that it’s got a very lean overhead. I mean, governance really is, ‘Don’t embarrass the chief executive and don’t find your name on the front cover’. It’s obviously far more than that but it’s a unique organization. I think lots of people have tried to duplicate that but it’s probably a one-off in the history of capitalism.


If we can find another one like that we want to find it sooner rather than later. And you were telling us about changes in the trucking industry. There’s a lot of talk obviously about self-driving cars and Uber and Tesla, but what’s going on in the industrial side, on the trucking side which some of our listeners might not be aware of?

Actually, there is no real difference between what is going on with the cars and the trucks. Of course, the trucks have certain other elements around regulation if we put it that way, it serves completely different purposes because it’s about transporting goods , regardless of what those goods are, but what we see is a lot around connectivity. Connectivity in terms of, ‘When do I actually put my truck into service?’ Truck drivers need to sleep so how can you optimize that as an example in terms of real yield management, if you like, and then that relates to connectivity, and that’s certainly a big topic. The other topic is, how can we secure fuel efficiency, how can we become even more fuel efficient by elements like platooning, trucks driving behind each other, for example? You have other areas like electromobility where, at one point in time, we’ll have batteries etc., and powered trains that can allow you to significantly reduce diesel utilization etc. So, there are a lot of things happening which are actually really looking into the trucking industry. It’s interesting, and from a demand side, the whole internet, e-commerce shopping over the internet has put a huge demand on package delivery and everybody talks about the last mile etc., which is a whole new world that we haven’t really explored and that is not necessarily environmentally friendly, so how do we actually think about that in an environmentally friendly way, and what does that mean then for the whole transportation system at large?

So, maybe we can just switch to IMD Executive Education. What do you think are some of the things that are happening there, some of the innovations, some of the disruptions that are playing out in that space? Because that’s quite a mature and stable industry, it has been for some time, right?

It’s mature and stable in some sense but on the other hand it isn’t because, Mark, what you are actually trying to do here with your venture is this notion of continuous learning, and I think the fact that the world goes so quickly now, it has completely changed if you look at the exponential development of technology as an example. It just means that the demand for continuous learning is significantly increasing, so the demand side is quite interesting. We also have a whole new population that is coming into that part of development from the emerging economies, so in my book I actually do think that the demand side is really, really attractive. Then it’s the question of, how do we learn and how do we actually deliver that learning experience to you? Well, you are experimenting with one. The University of Geneva is actually offering theology online, so you can graduate in theology online which I find really, really fascinating. You have companies like GLG which rebranded themselves, and Gerson Lehrman which is an expert network organization, and they have rebranded themselves. They now say, ‘learning network’ or something like that, which again shows how you are actually learning, and what we think learning. And then if you even go into school classes and kids etc., how do they learn? They learn very differently than you and I probably learned. The same way because the brain ticks the same way, but the methodology etc. is very, very different. And then we haven’t even touched on robotics which again, I guess, can open up new opportunities for learning.

It’s interesting because we know there are a lot of listeners who are sort of mid-career, late thirties, early forties, perhaps frustrated with their ability to, rather like you said, move the wet noodle in the organization, so what kind of advice would you give them in terms of the skills that are really relevant, that will be relevant in this new emerging future of work world? How do you look at that because I know you address quite often MBA graduates? I’m just interested in your thoughts on what are the really relevant skills in the future? It’s a big question.

It’s a big question, Mark. Can I start with what I think will continue to be relevant for what we have today? So, I will give any middle type of manager career person the advice to make sure you understand corporate finance, make sure you understand the numbers. Do you understand that there is a revenue stream attached to your service and your product, as I talked about before? Do you understand the cost of drivers to actually deliver that? Do you understand the investment to be able to generate this, and do you understand your cash flow? How many companies are there, that are actually doing really well, but they are cash strapped for example? If you don’t understand this, it is hard to be an entrepreneur and it’s hard to actually drive your innovation forward so that is one area that I would focus on for sure. The second area that I think is helpful is a reflection on how organizations function and the related governance areas to that, because you could decide as a company not to do business in certain areas because from a corruption perspective or from a compliance perspective, those costs are just too high. So, understanding a little bit of organizational design, organizational mechanisms, I think that is actually really important. When I started my career at Procter and Gamble marketing – I think marketing is – it’s not dead but everything that anybody has learned, and that anybody is teaching at university today I think is not necessarily relevant anymore. Now, what are skill sets that will be absolutely critical going forward? I know it sounds like a platitude but certainly technology in all its aspects, to be at least abreast of technology I think is important. The other thing that I think is important, I know nobody can learn it, but that is curiosity, and learn from mistakes, and I know we say this over and over again that we learn from our mistakes, but I think more important thing is actually ‘course correct’. So how do I actually course correct? And I don’t how you teach these skills, I have absolutely no idea!

Well it’s interesting. One of the common themes in the first couple of seasons, we asked guests what they do to remain curious, and I got the most extraordinary range of answers, from just taking a different route home every Friday, be it on a bicycle, be it walking, be it a different subway journey. One of our previous guests, a guy called David Pearl, he’s set up this movement called Street Wisdom, and he takes executives out on the street and has them walk around and engage. I don’t know whether you’ve come across it but it’s extraordinary the insights that people are getting. The reality is that we cocoon ourselves and we just lose touch with what’s going on, but the lessons are out the front door and so do I think curiosity can be learned? No, I think it can be helped along its way quite significantly with some tools.

And that’s where actually executive education comes in because you take time for yourself and you suddenly sit there, be it online or physically with a number of people that come from very different backgrounds, very different experiences, and you’ll die in that setting if you don’t actually walk up to somebody and say, ‘Hey, Mark. Who are you, can you talk and what is your experience?’ So that’s a little bit of a forcing mechanism to be curious and that creates new opportunities, new perspectives, new ideas, new learnings, so I think this idea of a walk in the street is so important. One of the things that I have always done, I’ve always surrounded myself with younger people. Even when I was young, I had even younger people that I worked with, and this notion of cross generations is really really important.

And I think they call it ‘reverse mentoring’, right? Isn’t that the language of that?


Are you seeing that happening in a number of your clients? Is it that more progressive clients are doing this, or is it spotty?

Honestly, I’ve only come across one CEO and I trust him that they actually do it, otherwise I have never ever seen it, just never ever seen it. So, I think there’s a lot of talk about it and I think some of the consulting firms are trying to push this quite heavily but whether they’re able to do it, I doubt it.

It exposes people, right? It makes them feel uncomfortable because they’re suggesting that someone half their age might have a different set of answers from them?

Yes, Mark, that’s absolutely right but that’s assuming we’re talking about answers. I’d rather talk about inspiration, back to the curiosity and new ideas, and to me inspiration is not linked to hierarchy. If it was, we would call CEOs Chief Inspirational Officer as opposed to CEOs, and they would have to be inspirational, but inspiration comes from anywhere, and a rookie in an organization can be inspirational. I’m sure many fathers and mothers listening to this will say, ‘I get inspired by my kids’, so why don’t you get inspired from the younger people in the organization that you’re working with? So, I don’t think inspiration is hierarchical.

Yeah, interesting. So, Hanne, I sent three questions across to you a couple of days ago and I just wonder whether we can just wrap up on these three questions.


So, the first one was, what have you changed your mind about recently?

So, I pondered on that one, Mark, and I found it difficult because I actually think I’m more of a person who evolves my thinking and adapts it. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like to take decisions. I actually have a clear bias towards decisions and I think to be a successful entrepreneur you have to like to take decisions, but if I take something of actuality, it’s actually Emmanuel Macron. I was skeptical not because he’s relatively young, 38 is not that young, nor because he doesn’t have a long trajectory in politics, but I was just hesitant that it was yet another French bureaucrat, and I must say that what I’ve seen recently, the way he chose his team is quite remarkable, and he’s stayed true to his promises so far, so I actually have changed my mind on Emmanuel Macron at least for the time being.

Excellent. Secondly, do you have a personal work habit or practice that has helped you become more effective and achieve the results that you’ve achieved?

I have one and it’s tiny but it’s absolutely critical to how I operate. I only read an email once and I probably never have more than ten emails in my inbox because of that, because when I click on an email and it requires action I do it immediately, and I learned this from my very first boss at Procter and Gamble. At the time, there were no emails. We had inboxes and they came in the form of a memorandum, and he had the cleanest desk I’ve ever seen, he had actually nothing on it. He took a piece of paper and if it required action he did it immediately, and that’s how I operate, and what it allows me to do is it teaches me to be fast, and speed actually matters. Speed is a competitive advantage. It significantly reduces my chances of procrastinating, and there’s nothing more horrific than procrastinating, or unsatisfactory, and it allows other people to be more effective because I give them answers or directions or whatever it is that required that action quickly.

But I think it also psychologically reduces stress because if you’ve got two hundred unanswered emails in your inbox, you carry it around intellectually and emotionally.

It cleans your head, I guess, but it’s really, and I guess I developed it early, it is a habit I have. I really don’t read every email twice.

Well, I mentioned to you earlier on, the guy whose dog was snoring under the table, that was David Allan. He’s almost got cult like status with technology execs on the West Coast, all over the world, around getting the inbox to zero and so, I occasionally have, but invariably it’s just before I go on holiday, that was when I was employed doing that. It’s good to hear  that as an entrepreneur it’s possible to do, so I’ll have to get back to that. And the final question is, what’s been your most significant low, and what have you learned from it and how do you apply that learning?

So, Mark, I have made gazillions of mistakes. I made mistakes when I was a young Girl Guide leader back home in Oslo and I still make mistakes today. I find it hard to say if there is one – there are a couple that I don’t necessarily want to share but I think it’s more the series of mistakes that I have made, and how do I apply that learning to myself? It is about, to me, course correct. So, yes, I made this mistake. OK, so now that’s it, we’re back to square one. How do we then move on from here? How do we course correct? Now that I have new facts, why did it actually happen? So, a quick reflection on why it actually happened. One of the things that I don’t like though is to look back, and I also don’t like the conversation of, ‘If we only had’. What does it help me, ‘If I only had’? It really isn’t moving us forward so to me it is, ‘Now we are back to square one where we started. OK, then how do we move forward from this?’, and this whole notion of how to quickly course correct, and I’ll give you a couple of examples. There are organizations out there that take a long period of time to think through their restructuring programs. I continue to lay off people. It hurts whether it’s been super prepared or whether it’s a little bit less prepared, it always hurts. So, I always say, once you feel that you are probably somewhere around 80% there, go with it, try it, and again if we talk about innovation, some of the more traditional organizations, they want to get it 99.9% correct before you go out there, but you lose so much time. If you could only go out with a prototype, test it out there in a relatively controlled environment and learn from that quickly, at least know a whole notion of rapid prototyping which I know has become a buzzword, but I really like it because that forces you, again, to sort of course correct.

Yeah, and this idea of speed being a competitive advantage. Wonderful. Well, I think we’re out of time so, Hanne, thank you very much for your time today. Where can people get in touch with you?

They can get in touch with me over my email address or over our website, so that would be hanne.demora@a-connect.com or on LinkedIn if they want to.

OK, and we’ll put that information in the show notes for this episode. Thank you very much for your time. It’s been great to catch up with you again, and I’m sure this will be of great interest to our listeners, so thank you very much.

Thank you, Mark, and thank you for coming over to a-connect.

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