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Coffee with Tom Wells – Chief Disruption Officer

How does a technology company, known for innovation and creativity, remain true to its ethos, whilst offering reliable and consistent service? This is not a new quandary. Business history lies littered with the carcases of organisations that might have begun the journey as creators and leaders but at some point, failed to transition, or to keep up with an ever-evolving environment.
Kodak, Nokia and Blackberry are a few examples.

In order to understand this further, I had a coffee with Tom Wells, director at Synthesis Software Technologies, a company that I have come to know and have written about prior.
Tom is passionate about change and becomes easily frustrated by those who impose limits on themselves. “We so often create our own boundaries,” he explains. “What might have begun as the most creative companies often become ‘machine operators‘. It makes no sense.”

According to Tom, one of the ways to avoid this, is to establish a company ethos that celebrates the individual. That sounds great, but with a business to run, sales targets to meet, with deliverables, managing staff and everything else that is required to run a company, how does one do this? Tom suggests a few different ways.

  • Mentoring programs; underscoring the value of personal growth.
  • Financial awareness programs for employees and their partners.
  • Team meetings – at least a day a month out of the work environment to socialise with peers.
  • Creative “hackathon” sessions. This is the “creative writing” equivalent of a technology company.
  • The placement on the value of creativity over process and practice.
  • Creation of an environment that is comfortable with working in the unknown.
  • The removal of negativity and replacing with critical thinking.

For Tom, this approach is not purely about the work environment. He believes that it is critical to understand that the world is evolving and that with the exponential rate of change that we have become used to, it is unlikely that his children will have the luxury of becoming “a” something. It might be frightening in some ways, but it is also very exciting.

“We cannot allow ourselves to build frameworks or structures that limit our thinking and our vision for the future. It’s not as simple as it sounds, as we always need to balance efficiency with creativity. It’s a very fine balance.” Tom believes that a good way to look at this is to approach a company as we would approach the education of our children. Everything is a balance between not curtailing creativity, but also raising people who are practical, efficient and are able to achieve success.

The benefit of this approach to Synthesis clients is that they are not viewed as corporations but as entities that have personalities and requirements that are unique. “So often, we consider this space – particularly ‘cloud’ to be cold and impersonal. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It is exactly the opposite. It is deeply personal and nuanced. I believe that that is what Synthesis has to offer that others might not.”

Coffee ends with Tom dashing off to his next meeting. He is energised and excited by what the day holds and there is not a minute to be wasted.