How THNK helped me revitalize my business

Dino Torrisi
March 17th, 2020
Article by: Dino Torrisi
How THNK helped me revitalize my business

At the start of every new year, many of us create New Year's resolutions, whether it's getting fit, mastering a new skill, or making more time for ourselves. 

 

For me, it was to join the THNK Executive Leadership Program.

 

Before joining THNK, I had decided to take a sabbatical, using my seven-month break to reconnect to myself and understand what I wanted to do with my future. I had been working in the same industry for 20 years – I was not looking for an answer, but maybe for the right question.

 

On my first day of sabbatical, I was at THNK, starting the first module of the program. Overall, it was a tough journey, full of emotions, questions, difficult moments, but also beautiful discoveries, meetings, and encounters. It was the best experience of my life professionally.

Part 1: Sensing

When I joined THNK, I wasn’t sure if I was going to go back to Futureberry, the innovation company that I had founded. In the end, I decided to return because it was the perfect sandbox to apply what I had learned at THNK and because I cared about the people of Futureberry. It turned out to be the right decision.

The first month back was tough. Being in the office all day I felt overwhelmed. There were some people that had joined the company while I was gone, so I didn’t even know everyone. I spent the first month observing my team, talking to different people, listening to them, using all of the lessons about open exploration and Sensing that I learned at THNK.

revitalize my business

“THNK was the best experience of my life professionally” – #THNKer Dino Torrisi

Part 2: Implementing the changes

At Futureberry, we want to be a “liberation army” (credits to Berend-Jan for coming up with this!). We believe that free and unconstricted minds will be much more successful in imagining and taking risks on new ideas. In order to do that, the process is secondary; mindset is the key. This is what we want to deliver and transform within our clients. As I started to see my company with fresh eyes, I realized that we needed to be much more creative and innovative ourselves. We needed to liberate the people of Futureberry.

We broke down our challenges into three categories:

  1. Client. In the spirit of “liberation,” Futureberry helps to transform large companies. But with small projects of only two to three days long, I realized we were not really transforming any of our client companies. We also had a declining conversion rate, sending out an average of 100 proposals to sign 20 new projects.
  2. Product. All of our project proposals were becoming copy-paste proposals. There was no more innovation and no creativity, which resulted in a lower quality of product offerings (and definitely less fun!). Our product was detached from the real needs of the client.
  3. Team. I felt a low level of energy across the company, who were spending most of their time behind screens instead of working and collaborating with each other.

In an effort to address each of these problem areas – to increase the energy, happiness, creativity, and in the end, the freedom of the people – we came up with 10 “smart actions” that we would test for two months to re-energize the business:

  1. Say no to clients who ask for small projects. We set the bar, both internally and with the clients.
  2. Only rework the same proposal for a maximum of three times. If we can’t get it after three times, we’ll never get there.
  3. Cut 25% of internal projects to help people to be more focused.
  4. No slide decks for two months. I didn’t want to see a single PowerPoint slide. Let’s experiment with something new.
  5. No emails after 7 PM or on the weekend.
  6. Uninstall Slack from mobile devices and close the channel for direct messages (people were obsessed with notifications; they were always busy with something disconnected to the here and now).
  7. Turn off the lights and the Internet at 6:30 PM. In Italy, we have this bad habit of working late, so I decided to close the office at 6:30 PM to force people to go home and live their lives.
  8. Smart Fridays. Do not come to the office on Fridays but instead, work from anywhere to change the context.
  9. Unlimited vacation days. People know when it’s the best time for them to go on holiday and for how long.
  10. Form a partnership with Mayama, a non-profit organization that helps underprivileged children in Mexico, run by my classmate, Alejandra Peña Pous. I wanted everyone at Futureberry to create something for Mayama – and in every contract with our clients, we demand that 2% of the project fee go to Mayama (non-negotiable).
revitalize my business
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Part 3: The results

In the beginning, people weren’t really happy about the changes. But, after about 10 days, we started to see things slowly begin to change: Our proposals became more creative, we started experimenting with new ways of doing things – in how we presented projects to clients, for example. The team became more focused, more innovative, happier, and freer.

We also observed two unexpected outcomes:

  1. The average size of our projects grew seven times more than what they were just a few months ago. With the same questions and needs, we are now able to think bigger, to design more impactful projects for the clients we serve. 
  2. People at Futureberry are more confident and more proactive and customers seem to appreciate our new style. As a result, this year we are projecting an unprecedented increase in revenue (at least, this was the forecast before the Coronavirus).

To keep this momentum going, we have just launched a beta operational model which is bringing more autonomy to the teams. We have also launched a sustainability initiative to get us a B Corp Certification by the end of the year. We’re creating new partnerships, working with people and organizations on a global level. Piero Gandini, another one of my classmates, is coaching our team to be able to navigate these operational changes. I can feel totally new energy, both in the company and in myself. It’s a place that is not only working better but that I personally like more.

* * *
On Theater Day at THNK, I learned from our director Liesbeth that leadership is about creating the right context. When I returned to Futureberry, we set out to create the right context for people to be more innovative and happy.

This lesson, combined with sessions on purpose and systems change, created the shift in my mindset that was waiting to happen. Even one year after finishing the program, I still feel great energy and emotion. I feel a huge sense of gratefulness – there is magic in the school and in the program.

To discover the tools and mindsets needed to revitalize your business, join the THNK Executive Leadership Program.