Anuj Jain is the Co-Founder & CEO of a Singapore-based online platform called Startup-O (www.startup-o.com) that curates promising tech startups across Asia. Startup-O combines the art of qualitative assessment by seasoned experts with the science of decision making algorithms to identify a portfolio of three to five startups a quarter and enables them to get access to strategic capital and a global network of growth enablers. With his 15+ years of hands-on experience in growing businesses across Asia, Anuj is on a mission to solve pain points for both start-ups and investors with a fast, transparent and inclusive process focussed on enabling success. I spoke to him about creative leadership, traits of a creative team and the top trends that will likely shape life in the future.
Creativity is an essential dimension of the life force that seeks expression through various manifestations that we see around human life. It is a central concept to our being and for our betterment. To be creative is about absorbing all that you have through millions of impressions and bringing to life unique expressions towards specific intents. Leadership is all about understanding the context and giving shape to the future by guiding the way for a cohort working towards a common goal. The challenges and multiple variables of this dynamic world are like the colours in the palette of an artist. Leaders need to express their individual creativity to paint on different canvasses. I personally think effective leadership is situational but being creative is an essential part of any situation to bring about better solutions for the team and the world at large.
I am a big fan of the design thinking process that is becoming more commonplace now. I have been following the work of companies like IDEO for a long time. I have been involved in various modalities of creative problem solving throughout my career via product creation for fast moving consumer goods companies, inventing my own pet projects and now with this unique process on the Startup-O platform, helping curate and enable promising tech startups. One of the frameworks that impacted me early on is "cross fertilisation" which is more akin to inspired innovation versus pure inventions. I am also a big fan of the simple yet effective Blue Ocean Strategy framework. I believe frameworks are nothing but a way of thinking clearly in a given context.
Without formally intending to use it per say, I think we have applied various dimensions of E-Eliminate wasteful, R - Raise Standards of whats working, R- Reduce certain frills and excessive elements & C - Create new value.
The Startup-O platform is an attempt to
This emerged after absorbing a lot of information and observing a bountiful yet inefficient universe of alternatives at play in the startup ecosystem over the past four years.
Some of the things I look for in the person in my team are :their belief and approach to experiments, is he or she a life learner or degree learner, how do they spend time with things that inspire them and are they an ‘I’ specialist or a‘We’ player ?
I am a big fan of Ideo for pioneering their human-centered approach to problem solving. Richard Branson for his unconventional and almost spiritual approach to business appeals to me the most. His belief in learning, listening and laughter, by being present and acting strongly behind one's ideas, is a heady cocktail for success.
For anything unconventional and innovative, there is lag between the actions of the do-er and the ability of the world to understand and follow the value thus created. Finding early sponsors, believers and adopters of creative leadership based models determines the difference between ‘could have beens’ and ‘successful innovators’.
Since the rise of the digital and sharing economies, the concept of “creative destruction” is back in vogue. What according to you are the top three trends that are likely to shape business and life in the future ?
How will people cope with such massive change, particularly the loss of jobs that they are used to ? What should policy makers be planning for right now?
I feel in the interim nothing much could be done but to witness the pain caused by such tectonic shifts. Humans are slave to habits and fixed in their ways. Pain is inevitable with such major shifts. Seeds should be sown to make fundamental shifts in the education system, a massive re-skilling of the work force is required and a focus on instilling an entrepreneurial mindset across demographics is essential. A systemic shift in education, with a consistent focus on lifelong learning coupled with an entrepreneurial mindset of using machines to solve human problems, will enable all of us to co-exist with the world of machines. As in martial arts like Aikido, don't resist the opposing force but merge with it and use it to your advantage.
Finally, what do you do to fuel your creativity?
I drink energised water which is a mystical and creative element that doesn't obey the laws of physics :) I also believe that immersing one's self in varied experiences of life by way of engaging with people from all walks of life from across cultures helps a lot.
Anuj can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org