When he walks into the room there is something that makes me want to sit down with him for what I know would be a long, deep, and fascinating chat. And there is something about him that makes me think he would welcome and enjoy it just as much as I would.
For a self-proclaimed introvert, Dr Jason Fox sure doesn’t seem like it. My guest this week has the look of somebody who knows who he is, is completely comfortable expressing this the way he wants to express it, and could walk up to any group, at any gathering, and be the life of the party. The blazer, the brogues, the quirky mannerisms when he speaks on stage – Jason has taken what some might consider to be uncool and irredeemable and turned them into a statement about what is stylish, relevant, and authentic.
As our conversation starts to unfold I begin to realise that this truely isn’t an act or an exterior facade, but something that seems to have permeated all aspects of his life. Perhaps a better description is that who he is at his core flows out into all aspects of his life. For example, an academic by training, Jason talks and writes with humour and accessibility. There is no feeling of superiority when you are with him, rather there is a sense of generosity and truely wanting the best for you.
But it is in how this understanding of who he is has flowed into his work that I find most interesting. In an era of startups, fin/bio/nano tech, warehouses converted into coworking spaces, and where it is fashionable to poke fun at multi-national corporations and those who work there, Jason has picked the established and mainstream meeting rooms of the corporate world over the startup world as the very target of his work. In some ways he sees this as being a more comfortable fit for him as he believes he can more easily impress those who work at corporates. Corporates seem to be more hungry for his input because they know that things aren’t working there, and they want something new and better and more meaningful. There is a humility and willingness to change that you sometimes don’t find in a self-assured startup.
And although the complexities of big multinationals make implementing significant change difficult, the potential for fast and far-reaching change is profound. Can you imagine the implications of socially and environmentally conscious change inside corporates like Pepsico, McDonalds, Suncorp and the CSIRO – corporates that Jason influences and works with on a daily basis?
Jason is the author of two books (The Game Changer, How to Lead a Quest), a sought after keynote speaker, and an expert in motivation and work design. He is on his very own quest to rid the world of poorly designed work. The kind of work that kills brain cells, drains motivation, and leaves people wondering what the point of the work is, who it benefits, and how it ties back to the goal of their organisation. In its place, Dr Fox implements elements that make work fun and that give people a regular sense of progress. As he puts it, he helps people make progress through doubt and uncertainty and unprecedented work. He enjoys nothing more than helping forward thinking leaders use motivational science and design to create well designed work.
It was through a curiosity about two things that led Jason to his breakthrough ideas. The first curiosity was about the effectiveness of video games in getting people to work so hard at something where they spent so much time failing. The second curiosity was through the observation that in setting and achieving SMART goals people were often prevented from seeing even better opportunities along the path. In disrupting ‘default thinking’ (which is great for efficiency but not so good for strategy, curiosity and empathy), Dr Fox encourages people to embrace self-doubt over certainly as this enables people to have an open instead of closed mind, and to ask themselves what setting fuzzier goals would look like.
In his book The Game Changer Jason’s number one tip for improving the design of work is to make progress visible. And in our conversation, his tip for those of us wanting to be subtle disruptors is to be active instead of passive in our consumption of information, by asking two questions:
– ‘yeah, but….’ (e.g. yeah but that won’t work because its already been done): this means we are thinking critically about the information we are presented with
– ‘yes, and…..’ (e.g. yes and that is like this other random thing over here that I heard about): this means we are thinking creatively about links between the information we are presented with, enabling us to join ideas from very diverse fields to create brand new thinking.
In asking these two questions we are then about to create our own thought leadership and have something valuable to share with others.
Sitting in The Everleigh cocktail bar in Collingwood’s Gertrude St and pondering some fascinating ideas with Dr Jason Fox is right up there with my favourite things to do. I hope you enjoy joining us for this fun and though provoking conversation.