By letting everyone live full lives, and totally self-manage, we get the most from our team because results are the only factor you are measured on.
Jessica Higgins is a public speaker, strategic consultant and a published author on creating end-to-end culture design solutions in healthcare, higher education, governments and large corporations.
Jessica Higgins developed and manages the only end-to-end culture design solutions firm in existence today. Her clients include Microsoft, Zappos, Roche, AT&T, Pfizer, L’Oreal, US Bank, Babson College, and many others. She and her team deliberately assess, root cause, strategize, design and execute sustainable solutions at scale that connect people logically and emotionally to the organization’s most important outcomes. Jessica is a public speaker, strategist and published author. Her mission is to help others.
Where did the idea for Gapingvoid Culture Design come from?
My original idea for the Culture Science methodology came from when I was the director of a consulting firm that specialized in improving operations. I was managing these huge organizational changes across entire healthcare systems.
Over time, I saw that the key differentiator to a project’s success came down to whether the employees cared. It sounds counter-intuitive, but if people were unengaged, the systems change would go better. They were told to do new stuff and they just did it.
It was the organizations that really cared about what they were doing who would resist change the most. The consulting model strips away the feeling of ownership in one’s work and it doesn’t account for the emotional and cultural DNA of the organization.
This is the real problem in every big consulting firm today. The consultants are smart, for sure, but to be effective in the new world of work, you need the right tools.
By pure chance, I was then introduced to a marketing expert (the original owner of our brand, Jason Korman). He was transforming the emotional side of businesses. We immediately knew there was so much we could do together if we combined the operational design model with the model of emotional change.
So we just made it happen.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My brain is hard-wired against structure so “typical” is a tough question. If I wake up feeling creative I head straight to a coffee shop or head to my couch to work, and will pop by the office on a break to say hello to whoever chooses to come in that day.
Otherwise, I start the morning off with exercise to get my blood flow optimized and then either head to the office, or a quiet place to work, depending on what needs to be done.
We, as a team, optimize our productivity as a result of this lack of structure. We all are obsessed with doing great work so we trust and respect each other to self-manage our time and energies. The parents on the team get to be parents, the single folks like me get to work from the beach if we feel like it. We have offices, in case that’s the way you work best. By letting everyone live full lives, and totally self-manage, we get the most from our team because results are the only factor you are measured on.
It seems counter-intuitive, but trust me it works.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Ideas come to life in our business because we all bring extremely different skillsets and always play to our strengths. Jason is Steve, I’m very much the Woz. Every big idea person needs a serious execution person, and vis versa. I love being the nerd behind the laptop creating all day. He loves creating big ideas that transform businesses.
I think where a lot of people go wrong is when they try to be something they’re not.
Either convincing yourself you can do more than you really can, or by trying to do more than you should be doing. Most people are wired to excel in a much more limited set of skills than we are aware of.
If you want to build a business, you have to start with a serious self-assessment. You really need to get to know yourself and what skills and qualities you bring to the table.
Then delegate things you don’t excel at. It’s pointless to do something that other people can do better, because they’ll end up doing it better than you anyway.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I am obsessed with the seamless integration of real and digital life. It drives all of my design strategies. I’m literally designing for the singularity. I love the relationships people are building with digital platforms and a lot of our work utilizes these natural patterns and trends in culture.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
My physical and emotional health are priority number one. This translates into habits like writing a daily calendar invite for pilates so my calendar is blocked, and taking walking meetings in a beautiful place.
A big part of successful self-management is emotional self-management. You have to stay healthy and active if you’re really committed to thriving as a business professional for the long haul. An unhealthy body or mind will send you down a bad path.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Never work with people you don’t trust. Trust is more important than skill. It would have been great to not have learned that lesson the hard way.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Women are better at business. Statistically we’re slightly weaker in future planning, but show stronger EQ, dedication and resilience. I know I’ll get a lot of push back on this one but think about it: these bodies are designed for producing human life. When it comes to caring, we’ve got the market cornered. And I’ll take someone who cares over someone who doesn’t any day.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I carry a laptop everywhere. I got in trouble for this at a wedding once, but I still recommend it. Treat your work as 24/7. Think about it 24/7 and be prepared to act on it 24/7.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
We don’t believe in transactional sales, we believe in relationships. Whether you do business with us or not, our clients and friends know we are always here to help. We even give great ideas away for free every day to our mailing list. It makes everyone 100% know that they are not a transaction to us, and this has helped us tremendously.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Assuming that my personal relationships were one thing, and business was another. Once you understand that your business is your whole life, you have to design relationships that elevate that work, and you. Make sure you’re only around people who want to see you succeed, and are willing to help get you there.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I can’t wait for blockchain implementations. We’re in the middle of a new computing revolution and it’s a data revolution. Strategies are being set now, and the executions will change everything. Imagine what the computer did for households. Imagine a world where data is real and absolute. Imagine what the truth will do for households. Everything becomes possible and there are millions of business opportunities to be had.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
My favorite productivity hack costs $72. The male to female ratio of time it takes to get ready for your day is unfair, so now I sit in a chair and let someone do my hair while I work. It gives me an extra productive hour, which I can sell at a far higher rate than the $72. Also, my hair looks awesome and I never have to stress about having a bad hair day. It sounds silly but these are real female problems!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I’m obsessed with podcasts and listen to them all day long, in the background of whatever I’m doing. They’re a brilliant hack for replacing the time it takes to read a book.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Whatcha Gonna Do with That Duck? by Seth Godin. It’s the starting point for anyone who wants to be a great writer or a great marketer. Everyone should strive to be both.
What is your favorite quote?
Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you.
– Steve Jobs
Its cliché to quote him, but it also defines my mindset about everything.
• If you want to start a great business, but you need a great idea, work inside someone else’s business for a while. See how broken it is. Your big idea will become obvious.
• When it comes to building a great team, give trust, and focus on great outcomes. Your client doesn’t pay you to sit in a chair at a certain time or control your internal team. They pay you to give them something they can’t, or don’t, get elsewhere. This something should be the key driver for everything you do, including how you are organized.
• Create a common set of values for your business and then work with people who make you uncomfortable, scare you, and do completely different things than you. One common goal, and a diversity of mindsets, will bring anything to life.
• Women shouldn’t be afraid to admit that they want to conquer the world and also have great hair.
• If you don’t treat your work like your baby, don’t expect it to develop itself on its own. Put the work in.
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