What good is a corporate experience?

It was during another, countless, KPI improvement for GSK that I started to think about whether there was more to life than just earning money. As many of you, I inherited the mind-set that believed, “work hard”, earn a living and be economically safe as priority number one. At GSK I was travelling world trying my best to embed change and optimize processes within a big old multimillion-health industry. I learnt a lot, enjoyed work, and had a good life outside it. But something was missing.

At the same time the migration crisis reached its peak, I was lucky to be introduced to a small charity called Refugee Youth, with an outstanding project called APOW (Amazing People of the World) run by one of the most inspiring people I have ever met. Starting to volunteer on their fun and artistic bonding activities made me realize that making someone to feel more at home can be so much more rewarding than any moving KPIs into the green area.

But the world of social enterprises isn’t what I first thought. The field is confusing and disorganized – both from the outside looking in but also from within. It’s difficult to understand who is doing what and there’s another language and terminology to learn. And getting into this world isn’t easy, not even with volunteering! However, once you’re in, the passion that drives this work is contagious. I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the On Purpose Associate Program this year, which is helping me change the direction of my career, and gain experience with socially driven organizations. My first experience was with the Social Innovation Exchange (SIX), the world’s primary network for social innovation. Their mission is to inspire a shift in structure and mindsets globally and to learn and provide meaning to create more innovative societies.

Stepping into this world has been a transition. My corporate and engineering background is different from those traditionally employed within social organizations. What are those tangible skills that a boring corporate job has given you that you can quickly bring into a socially driven organization? I have used the following five tools brought from the corporate world in my first paid social driven work, which I believe will come in handy to anyone:

  • Issue Tree

This tool has great use when trying to tackle a broad problem, and structuring your plan of work. My starting challenge at SIX was to “Enable the team to deliver better value to the social innovator” (quite broad). Using the tool I was able to identify two main areas of work, and because I wanted to make sure I would have an impact from the very start, scheduled the quick wins (reduction of non added value activities by internal process improvement) and planned for the longer term (maximise the value added activities by facilitating a strategy process) accordingly. I found the Issue tree very helpful, by addressing the problem in smaller chunks and focus individually on achievable questions. Ensuring a streamlined process within a small team has enabled SIX to more accurately focus efforts and resources on achieving their vision. More on it here.

  • Ishikawa Diagram

Also known as the Fishbone, this tool came from quality control on production lines and it’s commonly seen in corporations. It can be applied to improve the quality of any type of work, including marketing and communications. At SIX we wanted to ensure no external communications came out with errors. Using the fishbone we identified all the causes of potential errors and set up processes to avoid them and created a checklist to follow.

  • Pivot Tables

Don’t worry, all those hours in front of your Excel spread sheets will finally pay off. Pivot table is the easiest and most used excel tool, but is something smaller social enterprises may find daunting or taboo. It can easily convert complex data base analysis into a kindergarten pick and mix exercise. SIX has a database of +15,000 social innovators and Pivot Tables have enabled us to quickly understand the database and produce insights. The key is to know the fields in your database and how that information was collected. You can even develop interactive charts and navigate the information as pleased.

  • Input, Process, Output for Meetings

This might strike you as obvious and slightly comical funny, but many smaller organizations are not used to effective meetings. Stating the Input, Process, Output (comes from software development) of any meeting beforehand, and basic rules of your typical corporate meetings can make a difference between pandemonium and day-to-day progress. At SIX, team meetings were not held regularly and people often worked during them. After using this approach the team now takes turns to facilitate the meeting: there is a concrete and engaging agenda that includes Icebreakers and with an action list as output.

  • Facilitation balance

How do you strike the perfect facilitation ratio between doing and sitting back? Kanada Gorla with over 25 years of facilitating experience would say it might be better to err towards the letting go. When you are wondering why things do not stick in a group that you are facilitating, ask yourself how much have you participated in the content and you will probably find the answer to be a lot.

On my first On Purpose placement, I’ve learnt that I have a lot to offer to help optimise, simplify and improve socially driven organisations. The above skills and tools are just a handful of thousands you might already have in your mind and I can see a flow of them moving from the corporate sector to social enterprises, powered by a wave of people who have had mind set shifts similar to mine.

In October 2017 I will have finished the On Purpose Programme and will be looking for my next opportunity in a social driven organisation working with developing countries. 

Get in touch with me at: mcosarinsky@gmail.com