It has been a while I blogged, but my life has completely changed during these couple of months.
Overall, these changes have been positive. An idea that a colleague and I developed became a company by itself and received investment. We were pursuing this possibility for several months, but in the last twelve weeks or so, it actually happened.
The other change that happened is in my role. Given that we were working inside a larger business, I confined my role to innovation and product development, leaving the financial and revenue responsibilities to the owner of the business. However, this became untenable after the investment came through. There was a clear requirement of disconnecting from the other group businesses and necessity to have control of finance and operations aligned to the business goals of the entity itself. Therefore, when offered, I took on the CEO role, assuming, along with my thousand other things to do, the responsibility for money and investment.
In a way, this gives me greater control of what we do. However, at my age, I am not necessarily a good role-fit for an EdTech CEO. I am, therefore, adjusting the company to my own image: Rather than making it an EdTech company focused on selling things to students, I am adjusting the strategy to become a company that helps educational institutions to transform themselves (and help students to build careers in Industry 4.0). This is a higher level goal and would need a lot of adjustment not only in terms of our brand and messaging but also in internal capabilities.
Therefore, my life was rather crazy last few weeks. I took the maxim - that I must get started fast and decisively if I am to have any chance to make an impact - and doubled down on my daily objectives. And, I forced through an extensive programme of weekly meetings, as we are geographically spread out and too complex for a small company. On top of this complexity is my agenda of changing the positioning! It has been quite a task to try and get everyone out of their comfort zones and start speaking. It is still work in progress but I believe we are getting somewhere.
In the meantime, of course, I have lost control on my daily routine. My reading has suffered and I only completed my first full book today, six weeks into the year! This is also my first blog post. This is also the first Sunday of the year when I managed to take it easy, sleep a bit and think about reading literature (more literary biography, as I dug into Janet Malcolm's exploration of Chekhov). I am looking at tomorrow's diary with trepidation - it looks like an endless sequence of calls and meetings - and hoping that I can maintain some sort of balanced life and not lose it in the weekday madness.
It does not help that my space for creative work has sunk rapidly. This is not just about added responsibility. This is also about the space I work in - a very busy office - and the distributed nature of my team. More I see it, I know that remote working is not suitable for small innovation teams. This is one of those things that big 'cloud computing' companies effectively promoted but it disadvantages small companies. I know my next task is to build an effective team in London, people who I can meet everyday and can meet after work hours for a drink. This is how creative work is done and not through a sequence of Zoom calls!
I know that view would be regarded as regressive but I am one of those hands-on creative worker with some successful projects under my belt, so I shall stick to my opinion. We will need global working - we can't avoid that as we operate across geographies - but I am planning to separate the creative and design work from the operations and sales functions. The latter can indeed be global because these are more process-based (though I can see how lack of trust can play havoc in those functions as well). But it is an absolute no-no in terms of producing ideas and generating complex thinking.
So I shall eschew travel and stay put in London for as long as I can. I shall bring some discipline in my life and carve out time for thinking during the day, and continue to surround myself with smarter people than me. I shall keep reporting my progress to become a different kind of CEO on these pages in the meantime.