Words of Wisdom from Workday Rising

Among the guest speakers who shared their wisdom at Workday Rising, we heard from an expert in neuroscience, a leading innovator in the fields of genomics and commercial space, and a basketball coach who has led his team to win five NCAA championships.

Diana McKenzie December 18, 2016
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One of the best things about Workday Rising is the opportunity to be inspired by great thought leaders, and then use that inspiration to make tweaks to how we manage and grow our teams. This year, we invited a number of guest speakers to share their wisdom in various venues throughout the conference. Here’s a look at three of our speakers and what they had to share.

Dr. Josh Davis, who spoke in one of our Business Leadership Forum sessions, specializes in helping businesses harness neuroscience research to develop their leaders and drive greater success in his role as research director and lead professor at Neuroleadership Institute. There’s plentiful research and industry-based evidence, Davis told us, that proves diverse teams are more creative, accurate, and intelligent. Yet there’s a major factor that’s slowing the progression to more diverse workforces: unconscious bias.

“The simple business reason for diverse teams is that they drive better outcomes.”—Josh Davis

Davis encouraged people managers to recognize the reality of unconscious bias, and how it can impact every decision we make, including whom we choose to hire and promote. While we can’t rid the world (or ourselves) of unconscious biases, we can mitigate the impact they have on our decision-making. For example, when considering who to promote for a role, we might unconsciously choose someone more like ourselves than the other candidates even if they aren’t the best choice for the job. If we’re truly honest with ourselves about our own similarities with each candidate, we can mitigate the unconscious bias that goes into our promotion decision, Davis said.

Peter Diamandis, who was our Workday Rising guest keynote speaker and also spoke at our more intimate Executive Symposium event, has co-founded several innovative companies. That includes a genomics company focused on extending the healthy human lifespan, and a benefit corporation that studies exponential growth technologies. He’s also co-founded three companies in the field of commercial space, and the XPRIZE Foundation, best known for a $10 million prize it awarded in a private spaceflight competition. In 2014, Fortune Magazine named him one of “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.”

“What kills companies is fear of experimentation and fear of failure.”—Peter Diamandis

Diamandis came armed with some incredible facts and ideas around the pace of innovation. He made the case that humans evolved in a linear and local environment, and can’t easily conceive the exponential technologies shaping the world. He talked about the ongoing significant disruption in such industries as healthcare, banking, education, retail, real estate, and the impact of innovations such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality. As leaders, we have to better understand this pace of change, and figure out how we ensure our organizations aren’t left behind. He went on to discuss that keeping up with the pace of change requires companies to embrace, rather than fear, experimentation.

Mike Krzyzewski, who also spoke at our Executive Symposium, certainly knows about teams. As head basketball coach at Duke University, he’s led the men’s team to five NCAA basketball championships (including just last year), and is a six-time gold medal winner as coach of Team USA. Krzyzewski emphasized the importance of the team over any individual player’s performance—being on a team means we own it all, and when we win, we all share that win.

“On a team you can’t have energy takers; you have to have energy givers.”—Mike Krzyzewski

Krzyzewski’s approach to building a team emphasizes character traits and culture. He also talked about the importance of having a set of values and standards that every team member agrees to. Simple, timeless values like being honest with one another and having each other’s backs builds trust that inspires each member to bring his or her best effort. And if any one person on the team doesn’t feel important, there’s a weakness in how the team is being managed. He also spoke about how failure is not a destination, but a stopping point along the way, echoing Diamandis’s view that experimentation and failure are opportunities to learn rather than experiences to be avoided.

I enjoyed hearing from these thought leaders and others who participated in this year’s Workday Rising, and hope you find inspiration in their ideas, too.

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