CxO Spotlight: Wendy Barnes, portfolio NED

Wendy is a portfolio non-executive director, a consultant in cyber security and an angel investor in several start-ups. She started her career as an executive in utilities and has continued to be involved in the sector as a non-executive director. Her first non-executive role was at GCHQ and she has continued to be involved in security, intelligence and defence for the past 20 years. An associate with Templar Executives, Wendy advises boards to help them address the challenges and opportunities of the cyber landscape.

Wendy shares her insights for change and innovation:

Changing behaviours
People talk a lot about changing the culture of an organisation. This could be to instil more innovation, to create a more cyber-savvy culture or maybe to become more customer-focused. But trying to change the culture is like trying to change the performance of a car without first seeing what’s under the bonnet! For culture, these are both the behaviours and the context that people work in. To move to a new or changed culture we need to look at what behaviours we want to have and identify the obstacles and opportunities which influence these behaviours. An example of this is creating a more cyber-savvy culture. Many organisations have company-wide training on cyber and, in particular, the risks of losing valuable information. This is a great first step. Cyber nirvana is where people think about cyber risks – and opportunities – in all aspects of their work. Will a decision they make create a cyber risk? Are they incentivised to do the right thing? Sometimes incentives can run contrary to the behaviour we want. If employees are incentivised on sales performance then they may trade a cyber-risk for getting the sale. So, let’s think about changing behaviours to get the right culture rather than just trying to change the culture.

The Human Organisation
COVID has changed the way we view where we work in so many ways. All organisations, private, public and charity have had to rethink their approach to doing business and how their people work. Purpose, values and ethics have more importance now than ever. Organisations which recognise this will thrive, attract customers and employees, retain talent and allow free thinking and innovation. Until recently I was a non-executive director with OCS Group who provide facilities management globally, and serviced offices in the UK through their Landmark business. Serviced offices will play a key role in flexible working and Landmark have worked with Corporate Culture to produce a report called The Human Organisation – a fascinating read for anyone who wants to create an organisation with an employee focus.
https://corporateculture.co.uk/reports/the-human-organisation-report/

Rapid adaption
Over the last few years, I’ve invested in several start-up tech firms. Some are growing quickly, which is exciting. Watching them flourish, I’ve seen some characteristics which I think larger organisations could learn from to stimulate innovation. One start-up Amplifi (http://www.amplified.global/) began to develop an app to provide lenders with an end-to-end solution that provided an intelligent audit trail to help comply with the forthcoming duty of care, using machine learning and artificial intelligence. As part of the development of the app they built a novel process which is capable of assessing the intelligibility of a legal/regulated document and then enabling its simplification of the information presented to potential customers. This has become a proposition in its own right and Amplifi rapidly refocused to be able to take forward both propositions in a consistent and complementary fashion. I wonder how long this type of rapid adaption would take in larger organisations. Innovation needs to be fast, flexible and fun!

Corina Balaneanu

Co-founder, Innovation Partnership

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