By Dr. James Eyring, Chief Operating Officer
Organisation Solutions has just celebrated our 19th birthday! Consider this milestone against failure rates: 50% of start-ups fail within 5 years; 70% fail within 10 years and the average time on the Fortune 500 list is 15 years. Few companies survive, let alone thrive, for 19 years.
As we were celebrating our 20th year in business, I discovered that we share a birthday with one of my favourite podcasts, All Songs Considered. They released their first podcast only 2 weeks before Organisation Solutions was incorporated. As I listened to their story, I realized that we share many common challenges and success factors. We’ve both thrived in rapidly changing environments with increasing competition. For our birthdays, I thought I would look at three of the factors that drove our common two decades of success.
When All Songs Considered started, the concept of a music podcast was so new that the host, Bob Boilen, had to explain the concept in their first episode. They started with one host who played a variety of music that he enjoyed, but that did not normally get radio station air time. Over time, their listener base expanded, and they expanded their offering. Now, All Songs Considered features multiple shows, blogs and broadcasts that cover all types of music, including Alt-Latino, Hip-Hop, R&B, Rock, Alternative, Country, etc. They adapted their offerings to meet changing consumer demands, building a loyal following in the process.
Organisation Solutions (OS) started with one person, Dr. Alison Eyring, providing custom organisation development (OD) consulting services to her first client, Royal Dutch Shell. In the first year, she hired two people (see Winnie Quek and Sridevi Schaub at a 2002 team event below) and ran the company out of a very crowded small bedroom in our Chinatown flat in Singapore.
Customer needs varied and Alison wanted to expand beyond custom OD work. Her first opportunity to do this was with Chubb Insurance in 2003. They asked for a leader development program, and she created one that not only built new organization capacity for growth, but also developed a cohort of senior leaders to drive and sustain growth. This programme became our Leader Excelerator Action Programme (LEAP) which has been successful across Asia, Africa and the Middle East. A few years later, another client, BHP, asked if we could come up with a LEAP solution for individuals. This became our Leader Excelerator Personal Training (LEPT) programme, a coaching intervention that goes beyond traditional coaching to accelerate leader development and has become our largest source of revenue. Another large industrial client asked us to help them assess their General Manager candidates, which became the catalyst for our Growth Leader Assessment practice.
Organisation Solutions expanded its offerings to meet changing client demands but focused on areas where we had deep expertise to ensure we provided a great product. Because of this, 85% of our work each year is repeat business from existing clients, helping us thrive and survive despite economic turbulence.
Nineteen years ago, All Songs Considered started broadcasting in mono because bandwidth was so low that that most listeners did not have the capability to listen to a stereo podcast. As technology improved, consumer expectations changed, and they started broadcasting in stereo. As the internet developed, they adapted further and broadcast live concerts and ultimately introduced video. Although the market has been flooded with competition, All Songs Considered adapts and remains one of the most influential music podcasts. They even won an Emmy for their Project Song video documentary featuring Moby (it is worth a watch!)
Likewise, Organisation Solutions has adapted to changing technology and client expectations. In the technology space, we moved away from in-person interactions and began more and more virtual work. This even became part of our offering as we helped leadership teams collaborate better across distance and culture. We moved our technology platform to the cloud and now leverage Microsoft 365 and Google tools to collaborate with our 75 consultants and many clients around the world.
We’ve also reached out to the marketplace in new ways. We started our HR Roundtable in 2004 and this has evolved into multiple roundtables around the world as part of our Growth and Leadership Forum, which is designed to help foster a community that can learn and share with each other. In 2008, we started our Science and Practice series to bring evidence-based HR to HR practitioners. We saw that many leaders were making decisions based on current fads and wanted to share solid academic research to help them make more informed decisions. This also has allowed thousands of leaders to meet and learn from each other. (See images below, clockwise from top left: Stephanie Nash and Lisa Alvarez-Calderon at a 2009 meeting of the HR Roundtable; Corinne Williams presenting on the topic of Resilience at a recent Science & Practice session; members of our CEO Roundtable and visiting students; our CEO Roundtable meeting on a Maersk Drilling rig).
At the same time, we’ve adapted our offerings so that they are sized to meet client expectations, but still accelerate learning and maximise on-the-job impact for busy leaders. We’ve added great talent and new capabilities to grow and support new offerings. Although we have adapted in many ways, we still hold to the core values that Alison laid out 19 years ago in a small Chinatown flat (see pictures of some of our great team members below!):
- Trusted Professionals: Provide thought leadership, never push what is not needed and deliver evidence-based interventions
- Care for Our Client’s Success: Respect our clients and help them succeed, even if it means giving them difficult news or information
- Fun to Work With: Have fun and enjoy what we do and help our clients learn and have fun too
One of the greatest drivers of company growth is innovation and All Songs Considered innovates. They started live concert broadcasts and now frequently record podcasts at music festivals. They provide ‘First Listen’s to albums before they debut and have a 24-hour music stream. They also started a video series called Tiny Desk Concerts where they invite musicians to come to their office and perform a 15- to 20-minute concert behind Bob Boilen’s desk. Most recently, they started a New Music Friday broadcast to highlight the best new albums dropped each Friday.
Innovation is part of Organisation Solution’s DNA. OS has conducted research to understand and gain insight into areas such as successful talent management strategies in high growth and emerging markets and how high growth leaders differ from average growth leaders. We combine insights from our own research, academic research and work with clients to create new solutions. For example, in the leadership development space, we’ve integrated design thinking into many of our programmes to mirror the challenges leaders face on-the-job, and to help them design rapid solutions that drive business results and development at the same time. We’ve also created modules to help leaders develop next-level capabilities (e.g., strategic thinking and executive impact). Most recently, we have taken over a decade of research and practice on assessment of growth leaders and have launched the Edge – Growth Leader Assessment. In the coming year, we have other exciting growth leader services that we will be offering clients.
Innovation, adaptability and customer-centredness are only three factors that have driven longevity for Organisation Solutions and All Songs Considered. However, they are three capabilities that are important in any business. My hope is that our stories stimulate your own thinking so that you and your business grow and thrive!
Dr. James Eyring is the Chief Operating Officer of Organisation Solutions and leads the global consulting practice. In addition, he specialises in leadership and talent management and works with companies and executives to build capabilities they need to fuel future growth. As part of his role, he provides coaching to global and top regional leaders. Contact James