The Fearless Thinkers Podcast | Season 3, Episode 4

Yumi Joins BTS:

A new era of empowered, inclusive change

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About the show

The Fearless Thinkers podcast, hosted by Rick Cheatham and Masami Cookson, personalizes BTS’s perspective on the people side of strategy.

Fearless Thinkers is produced by Masami Cookson, Nicole Hernandez, Taylor Hale and Aron Towner.

Special thanks to Joe Holeman, Chris Goodnow, Meghan McGrath, and Roanne Neuwirth for their invaluable help.

Yumi joins BTS: A new era of empowered, inclusive change

In this episode of Fearless Thinkers, Rick Cheatham, hosts Katy Young, Senior Vice President and Partner at BTS, and Emanuele Scotti, Co-founder and CEO of Yumi, a recent addition to the BTS family. Emanuele unveils the fascinating story behind Yumi’s evolution into a powerhouse of HR innovation, drawing inspiration from the collaborative spirit of Waze. Discover how Yumi, their groundbreaking tool, harnesses collective intelligence to empower individuals within organizations, making change not just manageable, but thrilling. Katie shares insights on inclusive change and the thrilling challenge of scaling it across diverse organizations.

Masami: Welcome to Fearless Thinkers, the BTS podcast. My name is Masami Cookson and our host is Rick Cheatham, Head of Marketing at BTS. On today’s show, Rick sits down with Katie Young and Emanuele Scotti.  

Katie Young is a Senior Vice President and Partner at BTS. Throughout her career, she has partnered with leading organizations across industries to enable change, from shifts in strategy and business models, to evolution in culture, operating models, and ways of working. She is a published author and active thought leader on the BTS blog.  

Emanuele is the Co-founder and CEO of Yumi, which recently joined the BTS family. Emanuele is a senior advisor who helps organizations design and implement new digital frameworks. He frequently speaks and writes on the topic of digital innovation.  

Hey Rick, how’s it going? 

Rick: It’s going really well, actually. Well, with the exception of my budding addiction to Duolingo. 

Masami: Oh my. 

Rick: Yeah, I’ve got a trip to Brazil, this summer and I was like, I should probably pick up some Portuguese. And, the whole concept of gamification in learning language has proven to be very effective, at least on me. 

Masami: That’s amazing. I’m a lover of Duolingo myself. 

Rick: Oh, yeah. Well, and it’s actually a great tie in to today’s show because, Katie, who, per your intro has always been a great partner to our clients in implementing significant changes in their business with our partnership with Yumi, we now have the capability to put in the palm of any individual’s hand, the power to make that change personal. 

And, it really does enable us to shift at scale. It’s an exciting conversation. 

Masami: Amazing. Can’t wait to hear more.  

Rick: So Katy, welcome back! And Emanuele, welcome to the show. 

Katy: Thank you. 

Emanuele: Thank you so much. 

Rick: So Emanuele, I would love to start with you today. Could you maybe tell our listeners that aren’t familiar with Yumi, a little bit of the story of how you guys came to be? 

Emanuele: Sure. The story is, I was a fan of Waze, since the very beginning. The navigation app built collaboratively by the community of users is like Wikipedia or other social applications. It’s a fantastic example of collective intelligence. By sharing experiences and personal data, the community can build something that makes their lives easier, decrease traffic jams, and reduce the need for outside management, such as traffic cops. 

Even for the city mayor, Waze can be a wonderful dashboard to see. How citizens use streets and places and design improvement accordingly. We at Yumi had the insight to build something similar to Waze in our work in HR and change management. Leveraging data, collective intelligence, and self-regulation seemed like a good idea at the time. 

In a certain way, organizations are like cities, and everyone wants to live their work better, autonomously. Driving the journey when possible. And the CEO is like, the city mayor and the mayor would like to see the city from above and understand where there is traffic and action needs to be taken and where things flow smoothly. Yumi is a tool to navigate better through the organization, leveraging data and suggestions to work better with others and providing to every node of the ecosystem, maps and nudges to avoid problems and to evolve better behavior. From our point of view, this is a paradigm shift from a system based on command and control where the feedback and growth are delegated to external agency, mainly the manager to an approach on collective intelligence, where the system learns and grows on its own. After that, we made different attempts to turn these insights into reality. Some of them evolved positively, others failed.  

We use mechanism and tone of voice very far from traditional corporate software or traditional HR software so that the user feels very, very positive. And when we met BTS, the global leader in change and cultural transformation, we understood that this was the play for us.  

Rick: Wow, so that was a lot that you’ve given us to think about. 

I guess the first thing would be, I understand what the word collective means and what the word intelligence means, but when you use collective intelligence, what precisely do you mean? 

Emanuele: I mean that the colleagues that I work with, know me very well. better for sure than the HR department or my boss. And this form of intelligence is often, it’s difficult to capture, to collect and to drive. And to have a technology that can, select, and leverage the intelligence that is inside, every single person of the team of the organization. 

And if we could leverage this intelligence, we can make a big empowerment of the single employee and of the organization.  

Katy: Mm hmm. This is why we were so excited at BTS to have Yumi join our family and be a part of our portfolio in terms of how we serve clients because we’re extremely aligned on the idea that change has to be something that’s inclusive in an organization. It can’t be something that just happens to people or is passively received or is forced upon people. 

It has to be something that the organization is truly engaged with and people feel a part of, and they feel like they’re contributing to it. In addition, the challenge with that, of course, is scale. How do you include thousands, tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of people in change in an organization? 

And that’s really the power that we see in Yumi partnered with the rest of our capabilities at BTS to really drive that kind of scale and impact in an organization. 

Rick: That’s awesome actually, to think about the ability for people to go on that journey as a whole versus being surprised or worrying about what’s coming next. Earlier, Emanuele, when you were talking about how the map sort of changes, if I’m paraphrasing correctly, based on that collective intelligence we were just talking about, what does that look like? 

Can you give us an example of how that might actually work? 

Emanuele: It works in a very simple way. The app asks to every single user to track some interesting data on their work experience. For example, how went that meeting, how was that day, who gave important support during the last week, how was the evaluation of the other attendee at the same meeting, or how was the day for the people you are working with. So, you produce some value for the community and the community provides back to you some insights. So you are tracking the information because you have an interest in receiving some value from the community. And so with no more than two, three minutes a day, you, for the time frame of four or six weeks, in a scenario that we call a campaign, the Yumi campaign, you can, in this give and take dynamic, give and receive some value from the system.  

Katy: I think that really aligns with again, Rick, how we think about change in an organization, because I think  where we see often change going wrong and I could talk all day about how typically change efforts really over index on, focus on, organizational structures, processes, things like that, and really under index on the people side of change, which is really what the whole BTS, you know, business is based on. 

But specifically, when we are thinking about the people side of change, what’s so critical is that we figure out a way to make it two-way in terms of how we engage with people in the organization. So what Emanuele is really talking about is the power to help individuals throughout an organization really supported with the mindset and behavior shifts on the job that are going to be required to make the organization successful with change. So they’re receiving these positive nudges, reinforcement feedback from their peers, tips on how to do things fundamentally differently, but it’s done in a really helpful way so it doesn’t feel like change is being forced on people. And at the same time, it’s asking people for their experience and their opinion, which makes it really exciting for people to feel like they’re actually actively participating in the change. 

So people are able to share, here’s what’s working for me. Here’s what’s not working for me. Here’s what more support that I need. Here’s what I observe in my team. Here’s what I observe in the organization. So that experience for people makes them feel really involved and engaged. And then of course, as Emanuele was saying about the power, then, of the data that the system is going to give us, is that then we have so much insight into what’s going on in the organization. 

So, typically the people side of change is managed through essentially communication, which, sort of, one-way pushes information within the organization. The beauty of the sort of daily element of Yumi is that we can actually get into the daily work experiences of individuals and teams and actually see what’s happening and what people are experiencing at every level and every part of the organization. 

Rick: So Katy, let me just go a little bit deeper. Okay. 

In fact, into what you just said, and that is that daily connection with change, and including it in the flow of work. I realized that this is one of those things that probably for a lot of people, might feel like too much. So I guess I’m wondering, in your experience, how is it that the daily reminders don’t potentially make things harder for people? 

Katy: I think that’s a really interesting question. And I think, the biggest thing we hear from our clients is that people are experiencing change fatigue. I don’t think there’s an organization that doesn’t, at this point, experience change fatigue. Our point of view at BTS, of course, is that that is the the new normal and, part of our job in working with Yumi or any of the rest of our tools, is to help build change readiness in organizations while we do the work. But we also have to be very careful about how we engage with people so that it doesn’t feel like something additional, something extra, something burdensome, or as you said, kind of a constant reminder that I’m supposed to be changing all the time. 

It helps people see these kind of big macro shifts that are being discussed actually at a day-to-day level aren’t giant asks in terms of “me fundamentally doing everything differently,” it’s small things, small behavior shifts, small mindset shifts that can add up to a lot. 

Emanuele: The idea is that we could try to put the people more at the center of the organizations and, make the work, more, meaningful in a certain way, connecting more with others, especially when we work from home or from remote and sharing an important part of the work experience. 

Rick: I guess what I’m hearing you say is, it’s not reminders of the big changes. It’s not daily reminders that we’ve got to, really rethink our go to market strategy or whatever the shift is that we’re talking about. 

It’s actually getting people to realize that it’s small shifts potentially every day that make the difference. Am I tracking? 

Emanuele: What we discovered, reading a lot of scientific research about what drives engagement and behavioral change, is very interesting, and is an opportunity also to have a more broad and comprehensive approach to the human being inside the organization. Because when we see, in a lot of organizations, also with our clients, the traditional leadership approach, that is using, external motivators to drive, engagement, like, what we call stick or carrots. And, we know that, if for us, the work is meaningful is important, is a big source of energy. 

Sticks and carrots are at the end of the day are very demotivating. The engagement, leveraging behavioral economics or neuroscience, is more based on intrinsic motivators. I do what I do because it is absolutely exciting, interesting, meaningful for me, has a purpose for me. And so in this new framework where I don’t need sticks or carrots to do something that is meaningful for me, but, I need other stuff. We need more empowerment. We need a new kind of leadership to boost autonomy. And the third part that we were mentioning before is the connecting with others.  

Rick: Thanks for that. It really helps to clarify some of the differences between the way that things have been in the way that, they actually should be if we’re going to be successful making these types of shifts. One thing you just said, Katy, that I’m curious about your perspective on, and that is this kind of concept that I have some level of autonomy on “what this means for me” and “how that works for me.” How do you kind of reconcile that with, what we would consider in the past, like a playbook or, a best practice for ways of working? 

Katy: Anyone in an organization chooses what they’re going to do at any given time of the day. They’re not being forced to do anything. And so at the end of the day, execution of anything in an organization happens from the small choices that people are making thousands of times throughout their day in terms of how they spend their time, how they interact with other people, small choices that they make, large choices that they make. Embracing the fact that people have autonomy and are able to make all these choices that they’re making on a daily basis, but supporting them so people are getting this sense of positive reinforcement on the things that are really working, and some tips and some suggestions on things that they could be doing to be even more successful with their teams and within the organization. And of course they can do with that information what they will. 

Rick: Cool. That actually provides some great clarity for me. Thank you. So, then I’ll just kind of throw this one out – this one pops out to me, Emanuele, in something that you just said, in the traditional leadership approach, I would think it would be difficult for, leaders to kind of, for lack of a better way of saying, pass the responsibility for the pace and the process over to the team versus, what you said all the way back in the beginning, that kind of command and control. By the beginning of Q2, this is going to be how it all works. 

Katy: Another part of way we view change, Rick, is that change, particularly today, but to some extent always, has been and needs to be iterative. Change can’t be some sort of a linear path from A to B. We need to actually understand how things are evolving in our organization, how things are evolving in our external climate, and be adaptive because that’s the nature of how we need to be able to evolve organizations today. 

So, what this is really helpful for is that we actually are able to get data about what’s happening in the organization and iterate and adapt our approach, instead of just sort of communicating things out and hoping for the best and seeing what happens. We’re actually able to not only support people on the job and making small shifts every day, but then we actually understand, okay, what’s actually happening in the organization? What are people doing? What are they struggling with? What are we successful with? Where are the pockets in the organization of success and pockets in the organization where we’re seeing things lagging, for example, and then we’re able to use that data to actually adapt our approach and continue to evolve and iterate over time. And I think that’s another extremely powerful aspect of this. 

Emanuele: My experience with Yumi is that, when you find leaders that recognize themselves, not as cops of the organization, but more the designer, the architect of the city that the people are using by themselves – it is a data driven and iterative process. Where, for other assets off the organization, you can see what is happening, as the results of your decision through data, and, this is quite interesting also to see how, this kind of leaders of every level are going to feel that the issue is not just, inside them is some issue that, arrives from, a bad, style of leader or a bad behavior interacting with other, but it’s just a managerial task to try to change my behavior as a leader of this team and to verify, which are the results of this change. 

And this is, my experience, a new wave of change also for leaders. 

Rick: And, I love what you both just pulled out for me in that, which is this concept of the data driven approach that we don’t even have to always ask, but we can actually see based on real measurable activity – what, if anything, do we need to do different as leaders to actually enable these shifts to happen? 

Katy: Absolutely. 

Rick: Well, I guess what would probably be helpful for our listeners now is if you could, tell us a little story, give us an example of what this potentially looks or feels like in action. 

Emanuele: One case is about new value spread out within the organization where the company changed the company values after decades.  

This customer needs to embed new values inside the organization. And the project started through the customization of the new values inside the platform. This is one part of the project. Very important. Very useful. The platform as the opportunity to describe, in a certain way, the challenge that the company is looking for, in terms of, new behavior, respected the new habits, new key factors to observe. And so we made this work 46 weeks in advance, and then we launched The Yumi campaign. We made three different Yumi campaigns in an elapsed time of weeks, 12 months. In an absent time of one year, and, during the campaign, starting from this very simple feature we mentioned before, how was your day? 

At the end day, platform sent a notification to each user through the smartphone. How was your day? Why? And who was with you? And from this, every user can track the day, can share with other colleagues, so the user, each leader and the leadership or the HR department receive a more comprehensive, also more complex, dashboard, with all different insights, on the different data captured by the platform, organized for the organizational structure, but also for some demographic, families, from the tenure, for example, for the job families or for the generation. 

So every single actor in the organizational ecosystem can receive data, nudging, suggestion to modify and to track how different behaviors, as an effect, on the other part of the organization. 

Katy: You know, Rick, what I think is so cool about this is you can imagine the power of this data that the organization is getting. I think it’s very easy to understand why the organization wants this, why the leaders of the organization want this data to be able to understand and adapt their approach and be more effective. But the data is only available if people are actually using it – the app.  

Rick: Incredibly exciting. I appreciate so much, you both giving us your time today and, can’t wait to hear more great stories of how we’re able to enable change through a real community effort on the client side. So, thanks!  

Emanuele: Thank you so much, Rick. 


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