Focus on WHY | Dealing with organisational change

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Competitive advantage has got to be one of the most overused business keywords thrown around on LinkedIn, in strategy meetings, company reports, college lectures, and CVs/resumes What is essential to remember is that competitive advantage is temporary. In order to survive a quickly changing world, it's simple: EVOLVE OR DIE.

Growing up in 10 different countries gave me a very unique perspective on change. Every few years I had to uproot my entire life and move to a new country, a new culture, a new school, new friends, new language, new weather, new EVERYTHING.

Change was not a choice, change was my reality.

Dealing with this constant change was not easy. Every time we moved, I had to categorize everything I owned into 3 boxes - Keep, Discard & Discuss. Keep and discard are self-explanatory but discuss was the most interesting. Because it was in the conversation that we realized it wasn't WHAT we owned that made something important, but WHY we owned it. Whenever you are dealing with change personally or professionally, it's important to consider WHY we are doing something before jumping into WHAT we are doing.

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Let me explain. Blockbuster, the infamous story of a company disrupted by technological innovation, lost because they focused on the WHAT. Blockbuster focused on WHAT they did - dvd's, movies, brick-and-mortar stores. If they had instead focused on WHY they did it - to bring entertainment into the heart of the home - they would have found ways to stay relevant especially when Netflix came around.

Kodak is another famous example of a company that were globally reputed for developing the most advanced cameras and camera film. But they lost out to digital photography not because they didn't have access to them (ironically they held some of the earliest patents on digital photography) but because they focused on WHAT they were doing (cameras and camera film) rather than WHY they were in the business (to capture life's most precious moments regardless of device or platform)

In a digital world, it's easy to fall into the trap of attempting to incorporate everything from Artificial Intelligence to Virtual/Augmented Reality to Blockchain and more. My only recommendation is to lead the discussion with WHY you want to change, rather than what you are changing.

Personal Branding | #AskDanRam

One of favourite things about my social media journey in the past year has been learning from my community and having opportunities to give learnings back to my community!

#AskDanRam became a staple of my social media channels and I’m bringing it back. The theme for this Q&A was personal branding, something very close to my heart! Let’s dive into the questions...

Q: When trying to develop your own personal brand, is it better to be creative or consistent? - Lauren, USA

I think this is just like the tortoise and the hare story. It is so so tempting to put all your time and energy into creating the most epic viral video, but this won’t make people want to join you on your journey. Consistent, high quality content is always better. Personal branding is a marathon, not a sprint. Play the long game and people will get to know who you truly are.

Q: Should I post on a personal account or a business account? Or both? - Matei, Romania

I struggled with this for a long time! But when you think about it, a personal brand should be an authentic view of ALL of you. If you look at my social media accounts, I share all of my interests - travelling, work, music, my friends. They are all a part of what makes the IAmDanRam personal brand. Bottom line, commit to a personal or a business account, not both.

Q: How would you brand yourself if you want to become a professional speaker? - Munir, Jordan

This questions mixes my two favourite worlds right now! For me, they’re both about conversation. If you develop your personal brand well, you’re telling your story. If you do speaking well, you’re sharing that story. When I began sharing my story online through vlogs and blogs it became much easier for events to hire me. It’s a natural transition from camera to stage. I’d recommend developing your personal brand, sharing your story, and the speaking will come quite organically.

Q: What are you doing at events to develop your personal brand? - Brandon, USA

There are a couple of things I think of around my brand and events. Some of the smaller stuff would include always wearing my brand colours (especially #RedShoes)! It just helps me to differentiate myself visually. I’ve always been known to burst out into song on stage -kind of unusual for a speaker! But the main philosophy for me is about monologue vs dialogue. Tons of speakers treat the stage as a monologue or a selling opportunity. I use it to start a conversation. It's why I encourage people to connect with me online, or to connect in person for a tea / coffee after the event. Two-way conversations are much more meaningful and do wonders for your personal brand.

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Q: If I had a niche, would be it be better for my personal brand? - Florence, Ireland

This was an issue I had for years! Nowadays, I break this question down into three major steps.

  1. Throw things at the wall and see what sticks. I wanted to be a classical pianist, a professional tennis player, I worked for the UN, for KMPG, did some consulting, then some investing. Professional speaking and entrepreneurship developed out of these more recently which is why...
  2. When you’ve found something that sticks, like public speaking has for me, observe & watch! Learn from the industry and the industry leaders. I consistently watch TedTalks and other conferences to see what is the norm, and to figure out how I can differentiate!
  3. Build on it. I have developed a certain style, energy, look and delivery to my public speaking to differentiate myself from others. The behind-the-scenes social content I make is yet another differentiation from other speakers! This is me now building into my niche.

Bottom line, yes - find a niche and build on it!

These are just a few of my thoughts on personal branding. As always, this is a conversation and I would love to hear your thoughts - please comment below!

Others vs Self : The Art of Coaching

In a world obsessed with self, I actually find great value in being second. Most of the social content I share is me on stage because it's far more photogenic than what I do when I'm not on stage...coaching. Whether friend or client, those in my circles are familiar with my ability to make people simultaneously comfortable and uncomfortable. Comfortable enough to build trust, uncomfortable enough to allow growth. Bottom line: I ask tough questions because I really believe in constant self-discovery and growth.

Discovery is at the core of one of my priorities when I not on stage - coaching. It's an opportunity for me to guide people in building their startups, improve their speaking skills, discover their purpose and advice companies on innovation. That said, I realize it's not all that familiar with everyone and is often confused with consulting, counseling, mentoring or training.

What is coaching?

The goal of coaching is for you to gain clarity in your thinking, discover new things, and take action to reshape your life around that learning. To me, coaching is a couple of things;

  • It’s an ongoing conversation focused on empowering the client.
  • Coaching is about you… your dreams, goals, learning and development.
  • Coaching is about learning. You are the expert on your life. I use techniques such as active listening, open questions, encouragement, challenge, and support to help you discover insights and take next steps toward your goals.
  • Coaching is about action.

What is not coaching?

  • Coaching is not therapy, it is future and action-oriented.
  • Coaching is not training. In coaching, you set the agenda, change comes from you and you only.
  • Coaching is not imitation. I have no desire in turning you into me or any role model in your life.

So how does coaching work?

I ask questions. Tough ones! And then I listen not just to what you say but why and how you say it. We then take these observations and turn them into insights that correlate with specific, achievable action. I hold you accountable to accomplishing these goals and together we celebrate as you take positive steps forward.

Coaching

The diversity of the people I coach has lead to the creation of Igniter Pad, a community all aiming to live their best lives and support others along the way. While they benefit individually from my coaching, I believe there is even more power in the collective. If you want to be a part of this amazing community, comment below or drop me a message!

Diversity & Inclusion | Paypal Keynote

It’s one of the hottest topics within companies but is ultimately one of the most defining features of my existence - difference, diversity and inclusion!

This week Paypal asked me to come in and deliver a keynote to cap off their Diversity & Inclusion week. The son of an Indian diplomat, I grew up in 10 countries on 4 continents around the world and so my story has always been of how the ‘other’ can still find a sense of belonging.

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I’ve been called a bad word my whole life. It wasn’t given to me by bullies. Nor by my parents. Nor by my peers. In fact, it’s governments who use this word to label me. What is this word?

Alien.

Alien is the word used to describe almost  250 million people across the globe who are immigrants. And while it may seem comical, a quick dictionary search will show what awful words are associated with alien: distant, disturbing, distasteful, repugnant, and extraterrestrial. Why do we insist on such a label on people who are in fact human but simply different?

And so I am now on a mission to reclaim this word! In my opinion, difference has been a key ingredient to my personal and professional success. And ultimately difference is what makes us unique!

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Drawing from my TedX keynote in 2016, https://youtu.be/u8gZ6diCC54, I shared my top 3 tips on how to embrace difference to over 100 people @Paypal, Dundalk.

  1. Know Your Story

One unique opportunity afforded to me by moving countries every 3 years is that I essentially got to start again. With every hello, I was able to reshape my story. Each chapter allowed me to discover who I was and to evolve into who I am today. Being immersed in such different circumstances forced me to challenge my status quo and my perspectives to see with new eyes. But the real question is, how do YOU know your story? What can YOU do to truly own who you are - not for how you are similar to those around you but to discover what it is that truly differentiates you to make you who YOU are.

2. Own Your Story

One thing I’ve learned as a professional speaker is that even the smallest inflections in my voice or changes in my posture can dramatically change how the listener hears my story. So it is with each of our stories. Every moment of every day we are presenting a version of ourselves. And it is OUR responsibility to own how people receive it. This was best represented through a game we played where each of the participants was given instructions of how a different culture would greet a friend. Within the madness of multiple cultures attempting to greet in their own unique way we experienced and learned what personal space, comfort levels and confidence can do in how the other person perceives your difference.

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3. Share Your Story

Once I discovered my story and owned it, I uncovered values that have become guiding principles of what I do. Statements like ‘Start Now Start Simple’ developed when I saw my ‘alien’ upbringing not as a crutch but as the greatest gift I could receive. It’s my difference that made me valuable when advising the Irish government, or curating content online, or giving a lecture in the university, or as an MC, or in my interpretation of music, and so on and so forth. Ultimately your difference is your story to share with the world.

Watch the full vlog here - https://www.facebook.com/iamdanram/videos/1677254692381470/

How to Dominate a Stage | ImpactCEE 2018

Anxious before a big talk? Pacing around backstage nervous you'll forget your words? No clue how the audience will receive you? I totally get it! With 50ish events per year under my belt, believe it or not, I have the same concerns and fears.

Here are my top speaking tips and I genuinely hope it helps you too. Read it and hit me with your top tips below

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Impact 2018 was the most recent stage I was on. This future focused event attracted over 6,000 attendees, across 2 days with its stunning backdrop of Krakow, Poland and and it's phenomenal 250 speaker line up. Plus I had a curve ball - I wasn't just managing the main stage but a 2nd startup stage too (2 production teams, 2 audio teams, 2 tech teams, 2 sets of mics, 2 sets of names...you get it)

This isn't rocket science, but this is what I practice.

TIP #1 - BODY LANGUAGE

How important is body language on stage? Extremely! So much of communication has absolutely nothing to do with what you are actually saying. To dominate a stage and capture the attention of a large audience, it is vital that your body language is positive;

  • Stand Tall - own the stage
  • Head Up - engage your audience
  • Chest Out - exude confidence
  • Hands Out - be welcoming

TIP #2 - STAGE PRESENCE

First impressions matter.

Your entrance on stage sets the tone for the rest of your talk even before you've said a single word. The audience feeds off the energy you provide as you walk out. It is your stage, own it. Make sure to face the audience all of them (even the people hiding in the back rows). Standing central is important, but don't be afraid to walk around.

I recently put together a vlog of the headliner of Impact 2018, the world's most advanced robot Sophia (https://youtu.be/jqaatz1Hv3U). She gets a pass on this tip only because she is a robot :)

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TIP #3 - AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT

How many times have you lost interest in a speaker at an event?

 

The reason countless speakers lose their audience is because they don't effectively engage them. Simple tricks like asking questions and collective voting are great methods to hold audience attention. If you sense low energy in the room, get the blood flowing - make them stand, move around a little, have some fun with them!

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Picture this - the Impact crowd at 7pm after 9 consecutive hours of panels, keynotes and pitches... As you can imagine the energy was pretty low. What did I do? I made them dance!

The crowd was reluctant at first, but who doesn't love dancing! Check the vlog at 03:18 to see them dance! (https://youtu.be/jqaatz1Hv3U)

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A big thank you to Impact 2018 for going the extra mile to invite me to host their largest event yet. Hope these tips are helpful and feel free to share yours below.

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If you want more, watch the full vlog! 

 

Screw it - I'm restarting 2017!

2017 has come but I think I brought a lot of baggage from 2016 into it. And for the most part I feel like I’m barely holding on. There have been unexpected family developments that landed one of us in the emergency ward, a difficult house move, a lot of ambiguity around what I’m doing professionally, and for some reason I’m in Mumbai speaking to 15000 students on my 2nd international trip this month when I swore I’d travel less this year.

And I know I’m not the only who feels rushed and pushed and hurried.

So, what are we going to do about it?

Well the madness ends now! I am committed to reclaiming 2017 and you should to.

This last weekend of January I reflected on just three simple things that I am going to put into action from February 1st. Yep, Feb 1st is the official start of 2017 for me.

Cognitive Computing

The third era of Information Technology

Imagine a world where you could make fast important decision with confidence. Now imagine your car advising you on issues as such as your marriage, stocks, presents and even parking spaces. Or your tablet at work helping to medicate your aging parents in a foreign land. A watch giving you suggestions on places to eat based on your recent travel schedule. This is bigger than Big Data. It’s more intelligent than artificial intelligence. It is set to  augment our lives more than current augmented/virtual reality. Welcome to the world of Cognitive Computing!

My favorite resource, Wikipedia (don’t judge me, you do it too), describes Cognitive Computing as ‘new hardware and/or software that mimics the functioning of the human brain and helps to improve human decision-making.’ This next frontier allows self-learning systems to use data mining, pattern recognition, and natural language processing to essentially mimic human thinking. 


Recently I had the incredible opportunity to share the DLD Summer 16 Conference stage with Dirk Muhlenweg, Head of Global Sales for the Watson IOT centre in Munich, to discuss how cognitive computing will revolutionise industries in the future. 

For the full 20 minute video:

Fake it till you Make it?

Uncertainty. We all feel it at different times in our lives. For the entrepreneur, maybe a little more often than the average person. There are the projections, the hiring decisions, the strategic pivots, the legal contracts, the tech build, and the scaling opportunities. And whether you like it or not, as the founder you have to somehow exude confidence and knowledge and make decisions that have repercussions on you, your team, your company and society. And that’s when everything is going well! The entrepreneurial journey is filled with endless obstacles from co-founder disagreements to broken contracts to negative publicity to lack of funding to…the list goes on and on. And even when everything falls apart around you and within you, you need to do the impossible and make something out of a bad situation. 

Fake it till you make it? Heck yes! Your team depends on it. Your startup’s mission depends on it. Your investors depend on it. Your customers and beneficiaries depend on it. Deep inside, you depend on it. You need to drink your own kool aid. 

Disclaimer: I am NOT recommending that you manipulate or mislead. And the goal is NOT to turn into the fake. But I am reassuring you that we have all had moments when we’ve faked it in order to have an opportunity to learn with the intention to make it.                                

I’m going to be honest. My first job was with the UN - did college perfectly prepare me for this job? No. Did I have to fake it to make it? Yes. My first startup building a massive event across the oceans leading a multi-national team across continents – did I know exactly what I was doing to pull off an event that had literally 100s of 1000s attending? No. Did I fake it till I made it? Yes. I don’t say this out of pride but rather humility; a genuine gratefulness for incredible opportunities. For shoes too big for my feet but great people to help me grow into them. Faking it till I made it. 
               
     " I’m not in it for the money. I’m not in it for the fame. I’m in it for the journey."

“Faking it” has become an attitude (more on that below) that I believe has necessitated humility and tenacity on my entrepreneurial journey. And it’s the journey that excites me more than the destination. I’m not in it for the money. I’m not in it for the fame. I’m in it for the journey. I love finding creative solutions to everyday problems we have in our world that can help make the world a better place. And sometimes, I have to fake it to make that a reality.

o THREE quick tips on how to be good at ‘faking it’

  1. Be clueless: An unquenchable thirst to learn and absorb. An attitude of fire first, aim second. May seem reckless but it gets you started and forces you to very quickly start figuring things out. Being clueless forces you to ask good questions and find the answers.
  2. Be Poor: You don’t have the luxury of security nets and funds so what do you do – bootstrap. You’ve got to give 100% to what you have right now so you get creative with your network, resources and skills to make your dream a reality.
  3. Be hungry: You’ve got your back against your wall but you have no choice to succeed. This is what forces you to be creative, find solutions and develop a tenacity to make things happen so that you never return to that place of hunger and desperation. 


To me these 3 characteristics of those ‘faking it till they make it’ are powerful traits of a good entrepreneur who is grounded and determined to succeed.