Brilliant Basics Edition Podcasts
Sebastian Weston-Lewis on Computational Design and the Future of Work
Sebastian Weston-Lewis, Computational Design Practice Lead at Brilliant Basics, discusses the future of work and how the world is changing both from the workforce and technology perspective. The discussion covers the role of live enterprise and computational design in brief.
Hosted by Anand Verma, European Head of Digital Services for Infosys and Founder & CEO of Brilliant Basics, Infosys’ Design Studios.
“Computational design allows to serve a tailored experience for every single user out there. The tailored experience reinforces that connection between the organization and the actual employees, consumers and users.”
- Sebastian Weston-Lewis
Sebastian and Anand are talking about the changing role of employees and their managers. Today do managers and organizations have to adapt to employees?
Anand is introducing three pillars that define employee experience: digital, physical and emotional.
Why Infosys Chairman is interested in driving the employee experience initiative?
Sebastian is talking about the challenges in implementing these three pillars.
Sebastian is explaining how the employee experience challenge is being managed with Infosys stakeholders
How better employee experience can provide better customer experience?
What are some of the misconceptions about the topic of employee experience and future work and also why do organizations get it wrong?
What is the design thinking led approach of what are the employee needs?
Sebastian is explaining computational design
Sebastian is talking about Infosys’ live enterprise concept.
The three principles of the sentient experience.
What are some of the Sebastian’s clients saying about employee experience?
Sebastian shares his perspective about how better employee experience leads to better outcomes for organization.
How can people find Sebastian online and learn more about the computational design practice?
Music by Ruhan Verma, 13-year-old upcoming Drummer and Producer
Anand Verma: Welcome to this special edition of the Infosys Knowledge Institute and Brilliant Basics podcasts. Where are we going to talk about digital disruption and future work.
Anand Verma: My name is Anand Verma and today I'm happy to be joined by Sebastian Weston-Lewis, who is a member of my leadership team at Brilliant Basics. The topic today is future work and computational design. I'm delighted to welcome Sebastian to talk about this topic and himself. Sebastian, over to you.
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: Thank you Anand. Great to be here. I'm Sebastian Weston-Lewis. I'm a senior member of a leadership team at Brilliant Basics and future work practice lead. I'm a designer, a strategist, I've a broad experience across a wide variety of industry verticals.
Anand Verma: So if you look at the workplace and employees throughout the history of business, employees had to adapt to managers and managers had to adapt to organizations. In the future, our belief is that this will be reversed with managers and organization adapting to employees. Because employees are powered by technology, social media, and also the new generation of employees are coming in where it's almost like living in a Amazon Prime world where you've got too many choices, too many access to tools, technologies, products and services. So organizations have to change themselves to adapt to the new generation of employees they want to target and bring them on board in the organization. The workforce has also evolved and employees expect experiences similar to what they have become accustomed to outside the workplace.
Anand Verma: I'll start with that. Do you have any points of view about how the table has completely turned where boss is not controlling the employees, actually employees are controlling the leaders of the organization?
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: Absolutely. I agree with you Anand on that analysis. The key thing is that in experience, the work we've been doing, we've been focusing a lot of our efforts the last decade around consumer facing applications. We've done great progress on that front. We really have achieved a level of simplicity, a level of customer focus on our products, which is phenomenal.
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: However, in the employee space, that's not necessarily the case. Now that gulf between those two, that Delta between what a individual consumer as you correctly said, a consumer, as an employee in some organization, that employee isn't a consumer. When the [inaudible 00:02:21], and often even within, think about how many folks we have here listening to Spotify when we're actually working. The gulf between these two parts has become so big that it's becoming a source of competitive disadvantage for organizations that don't actually address that.
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: Secondly, we have this challenge in the industry in general around fight for talent, STEM kind of talent. It's very scarce, despite we are on a big globalized economy and so we believe that there is a infinite pool of these resources. They're not necessarily in the right place. They're not necessarily accessible to the right organizations. This has created the market pressure for this talent. Experience is one of those frontiers of where we can actually attract talent inside of organizations and effectively minimize that gap, which there currently is. So delivering a great experience and context of employees, is one of those things that can actually help us bridge that gap between these two aspects of experience.
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: I think, in the next few years they'll be blurred. There won't be a difference. It would just be experience. Which brings me to something else. We used to refer to the consumer, the user, the employee. I think we'll have to go to a place where it's just the consumer. It would just be one word regardless of what product actually is.
Anand Verma: That's really fascinating, Seb. Recently we did a lot of work with a very large oil and gas company. In looking at the experience part for employee, we connected three different pillars together to define the experience for employees.
Anand Verma: The first pillar was the digital experience for employees, so this is about integrating our digital landscape across every aspect of their job in the office and outside the office. The second part was a physical work experience. So this is where the people and ideas collide, in terms of the way you design the workspaces and in terms of not relying on cubicles and corner offices. It's about open architecture, while giving them the time to focus on the job at hand as well. And the third one, which is becoming really relevant right now is the emotional work experience, right? Where the people feel included, supported, and empowered in the diverse range of needs they have.
Anand Verma: How do you see these three things working together from your perspective when you're looking at experience across these three pillars?
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: I think a lot of the challenges that we had so far being technological, have been implementing these solutions around there. There's not a lack of creativity and fantasy, and the actual ideas with designs. The progress, which we are obtaining in technology, the appetite, which is actually growing for these kind of experiences again, is lowering those lines between those three and enables us to actually shape new products, new solutions, new ideas effectively, which we can bring into the workplace and blur these pots.
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: There are three critical aspects. Absolutely. Even digital, thinking of it just as a metaphysical concept in a place, which doesn't exist is wrong. An application is always consumed on a phone, that person might be on a bus, and they have feelings. So that's the whole thing around it. We always have to think about the context in which product is actually, or service is actually consumed.
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: And that's where I see these three things merging more and more. It's important for us, for designers, is important as an industry to actually understand these three dynamics, get more comfortable with the technologies and really work hard to shape solutions.
Anand Verma: That's interesting. And one of the things that interests me is what has changed in last, let's say a few years, why people are talking about this topic now than they were before. Before, they were trying to solve a process problem. You're not trying to solve a employee experience problem or a consumerization of employees problem. There's a scarcity of talent out there. There's not enough lateral hires to fill the gaps that organizations have. Google, Facebook, Amazon, plus a brand like let's say Shell or BP are also tapping in the same talent pool as the others are. So this topic has become truly relevant, not just for the CHRO of the organization, but also for the CEO. So as we talked about digital, physical, emotional, these three categories, not all of them sit under CHRO. It sits under a number of different functional owners within the organization.
Anand Verma: In your experience because you've been working with Infosys in defining the employee experience for Infosys employees, how do you see this challenge being managed with Infysos stakeholders?
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: Yes. The historical split, which you actually have, which you mentioned, is because the organizations in the past was structured in a certain way and definitely that reflects in the way budgets are allocated, decisions are made and where focus areas are and as parts. In Infosys, we recognize this is not a conducive to designing an employee experience of the future and a key thing that has actually happened is that because it's done at C-level of that chairman level-
Anand Verma: If I can interject Seb, just to kind of pick that up, so it could easily be in the CHRO level in the organization and in someone like Infysos. However, the chairman has owned this as an area of focus for the company to transform the company. Just to open that up for conversation. Chairman has number of other priorities in the company, but this is one of the major priorities for the organization. Just elaborate a little bit why the chairman will be interested in owning and driving this.
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: I think the key thing around it is a longterm vision for the organization. An organization is based on people, on talent. Infosys isn't- [crosstalk 00:07:46]. Especially Infosys, which is an enormous organization, constantly growing. A lot of people are coming in, a lot of people are moving on in their careers from Infosys like all major organizations. And that part there actually makes it really important. How do you become a workplace where people want to start their career into it or grow their talent and will stay into Infosys in any shape or form that it'll take in their career and move on into it.
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: The chairman really sees employee experience, the growth of the employees, the individual talent, the aspirations that these guys have. Unlocking that potential into people is a driver of true value for the people and is a true driver of value for the actual organization themselves. So there's this dichotomy of investing into people, investing into experience as a cost effectively, for the organization rather than looking at for profit. This dichotomy is no longer there. We have created this thing which we call a chain of value between a great employee experience and effectively a successful organization adding value to customers, adding value to the people, which work in here, adding value to shareholders kind of thing. So it's a win-win scenario.
Anand Verma: That is really important point to kind of elaborate here because I feel that with better employee experience there is a clear better customer experience at the end.
Anand Verma: So let's take an example of an airline, right? If your employees are really happy, they will in turn give the better customer service to travelers, and that creates a higher propensity of profitability and better margin and longterm loyalty with the brand as well. Do you agree with that?
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: Absolutely. 100%. I always take an example around Apple. I know it's going to be an engineering example, it gives us an idea. Steve jobs, I guess often mentioned but I think one of these things here doesn't get overly mentioned. When designing a laptop, when designing an iPod, when designing the iPhone and all these products he's been at the heart of and at the creation of it, they were focusing on several things. The product, which the actual consumers will actually use, the inside of it the actual engineering is as beautiful inside as it is outside and third, the machines that make the actual product. When all these three things have done it in synchronous and are done really well, then you obtain that winning product, that winning formula, we don't see it.
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: It's not something that you actually feel when you actually have a phone in your hands and you've got an iPhone. However, that's all a chain effectively of has brought it in is something, which makes it successful. That for me is one of those sources of inspiration and what we can do in organizations too. Can we design something, which is as beautiful outside as it is inside?
Anand Verma: So just to kind of summarize that section, you know there is a paradigm shift happening where the organizations are transforming from hierarchical to flat, becoming more collaborative, more design led, more entrepreneurial, more diverse, sustainable. It's me too we, it's about transparency. Instant kind of changes in the way they look at employee experience. It's global, it's millennial focus. There's so many good words we can use that showing that transformation, so there's clearly a need for it. There's a clearly it's a talent driver.
Anand Verma: Now let's talk about the next part of the topic. What are some of the misconceptions about this particular topic that is employee experience or future work and also why do organizations get it wrong?
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: The key thing where we get it wrong, it goes back down to how organizations are structured. Unfortunately, the way we silo our operations, the way we define our roles, the way we actually effectively assert our territories within our organization is not cross functional. It's not across domains. Think how many duplications there are in a large organization. Several I.T. departments, several geographies around that. Different CIOs, different chief human resources, and all of that put together actually then is reflected in a way the work is actually done. That is why you tend to have a dispersed kind of experience.
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: The other thing is around technology. So often, organizations I've seen this as a technology vendor kind of thing. So they've gone for a specific vendor, got a technology, implemented it and it kind of does the things out of a box. This whole idea of buying not build and not configure and do anything about it, actually brings us to a very dispersed kind of experience for consumers. They have a very disjointed kind of experience, it's all over the place. In large conglomerates where you have effectively multiple companies operating under an umbrella, this is actually accentuated and then you said you've got a double role in Infosys and in Brilliant Basics, you will notice that. You've got different systems, different ways of working, different cultures, different escalation, et cetera, et cetera. And that is where you actually see this dispersed thing. So to actually succeed and win in this, we have to take a comprehensive view at employee experience. And really drive it as a visionary agenda across departments, across the organization and we can succeed.
Anand Verma: I agree, Seb. And just to kind of add my experience and my two cents worth on this topic, a lot of people are not even framing the questions from an employee perspective, what matters to an employee. The access to as simple as policies. Maternity policy is a great example. In one organization to get a maternity policy documentation, it takes weeks depending on which country you're in, which jurisdiction you're in. And that frustrates employees in terms of that's a critical part of their life goal or life journey, and you're not able to get what you're looking for. However, with digital technologies you can simplify the whole process in an instant and connect that employee to the brand and the purpose of the brand. So I completely agree. You know, the other thing that is quite interesting from my perspective is it's always starts with here is a technology or tool that solves the problem rather than, what is the design thinking led approach of what is the employee needs, right?
Anand Verma: What are the problems we are really trying to solve here? And then using the technology to solve that problem rather than other way around. What's your view on that? You must have seen a few of these both on the consumer side but also on the employee side.
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: Absolutely. Unfortunately, this is I think the majority of the case, this is what actually happens. Often organizations are tied into these long contracts. There is a limited appetite to actually renegotiate these reinvest-
Anand Verma: Or even being agile.
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: Or being agile in the first place. Yeah, absolutely. And we've seen agile really succeed in other areas of the actual business, especially on the delivery of things. We don't see it across these old parts. So our role effectively, in the design industry is to support businesses, support organizations, understand this need, highlight these problems, bring them to the C-level and show the value, which actually, taking these initiatives can actually bring to their organizations.
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: I think we have a responsibility to do that. We can help organizations do that and doing it will unlock that value for consumers, for shareholders, for the actual business, for the people inside the company. So it's a win-win scenario for me.
Anand Verma: Once again, you're listening to Brilliant Basics and the Infosys Knowledge Institute podcast, where we're talking about future work and computational design and I'm delighted to have Sebastian to talk about this topic today.
Anand Verma: Seb, the other thing that I really want to talk about is, and I've been reading a lot and even what Infosys with the live enterprise concept is thinking and doing a lot of good work, turning an organization into a people driven organization. A la sentient organization and to do so, you can't apply the old tools to new tricks. So you've been thinking a lot with the Infosys team of this concept called computational design.
Anand Verma: I just wanted to open the floor about you introducing on computational design topic and then bringing it to life with some examples.
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: Three things I want to touch before I get into computation. So what are the three drivers that actually brought us to this? The first one, I think we've touched it today, is this evolving landscape for the workforce. The workforce are a lot more diverse. They are a lot more geographically spread. The footprint of organization is diverse to what it used to be and this brings challenges with itself.
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: So the first one is around the employee itself. The second one is around the pace of innovation, which is changing the landscape itself. This continuous change and innovation and bringing of new ideas, really is shifting the dial in terms of experience. Organizations have to actually be able to follow that, have to be able to actually adapt to this world here.
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: And the third one is around what I call a need for measurement. A need for actual data driven decision making. And it's quite an interesting one, because until experience with something, you know what we were doing for the marketing or for slightly smaller consumer facing kind of things, that decision making wasn't really necessary to know around measurement. So you could have actually taken upon, you could have actually done some experiments and see how things work. We've experienced at the heart of things now the risk for businesses to get it wrong is absolutely massive.
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: For those reasons there, we have to think about our design about three things. The first one is to design adaptable, adaptable at scale. The second one is to design inclusive, to make sure that the entire workforce is part of the organization, how we can unlock that success. And finally, we need to design measurable. And we need to design things that, one of the first exercises we actually do is to define what success looks like, how do you actually define it and codify it and then evaluate design solutions.
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: So these were the three principles that we are looking in context of the sentient experience, which we're trying to create as part of a live enterprise initiative that we're doing with Infosys, as a group.
Anand Verma: Nothing like this has been done outside what we're doing at Infosys before. So this is something really new. We are testing the work ourselves first, with our 225,000 plus employee base, and then we're going to actually open this up for consumption with outlines and customers.
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: Absolutely. That's the right thing, Anand. We looked outside our industries like architecture, manufacturing, different industries and how they've sold these similar challenges, and we realized that these guys were using computation a lot better than we are in the actual experience side.
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: So lateral thinking, a bit of a process on that front. And what we actually have done, we've developed this idea of applying the concepts of computational design towards experience. Now where is the difference between the two parts? In a process like manufacture and architecture, this is a one off process. You tend to actually apply computation, experiment, see things, but then-
Anand Verma: Then you're stuck with that design, right?
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: Correct. So there's a waterfall aspect around that, which is a finite product. With digital, the landscape is constantly moving. So we need something which is alive and this is the concept of live enterprise. We need something that can actually respond to these market changes, people changes. Could these competitive new products and innovations which are coming out? For this reason here, computational design has to be completely alive and sentient responsive to the actual changes out.
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: So what is computational design effectively? What we really want to be able to do is to serve a tailored experience for every single user out there. Imagine a product, imagine a log in system, imagine an approval system, imagine that, you spoke about maternity, how do we make it contextual for someone who's actually looking at that part there. Based on the information that we have about an employee and in organizations that is an infinite amount of data points, we can actually use that to shape an experience, which is a lot more tailored for the actual user and there's a lot more effectively congruent to who they are. That reinforces that connection between the organization and the actual employee, consumer, user, however we want to call them.
Anand Verma: Just for the listeners, you're saying that employee data in organizations is infinite, millions of points of data points throughout the employee journey. You're creating a newer schema that allows you to collect data that organization might not be collecting but makes the organization more sentient, and let's call that employee genome for one second. The better experiences we create or the employees through computational design mindset, we are able to give more predictive output to the employees that allows them to make their lives simply better within the organization. So we'll talk more about computational design in our future series as well Seb, in more detail. But this kind of introduces the computational design as a topic.
Anand Verma: What are some of the clients you're talking to saying about employee experience? From my perspective, they are looking for a business case thinking all the time. If I quote a certain points from Forester and also one of my favorite authors in this space, Jacob Morgan, he talks a lot about what the proper employee experience focus organizations do generate far more profit, far more revenue and also their turnover and attrition goes down dramatically.
Anand Verma: So there's certainly a bit of empirical evidence that with the better employee experience, there is a better revenue and margin value, which means that it's part of the CEO's agenda. What are you thinking about when clients come to you and say, "Hey, I would love to do this but I need to prove to the finance team that this is the right thing to do." Have you thought about better employee experience leading to better outcomes for organization and how do you think about that from your perspective?
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: When I think about the way we actually will be designing the employee experience for the future, it's the future of work vision, what we're talking about, we need to think about what we define as value. The traditional business case, where you say, "Here it is, here's a 5%, a 10% actual value creation, unlocking efficiencies, unlocking additional revenue, et cetera, et cetera."
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: That's very interesting, but how is that 5 or 10% actually reading? When we adopt things like computational design, we don't have a silver bullet that solves all of that at once. It's more of a progressive, cumulative effect of the value unlocked bit by bit at every single stage of the experience. So that compounding effect of the value across the entire value chain, that then adds up to these serious numbers that we're looking into and can actually really push the needle around that pole. Now those numbers, the 5%, the 10%, the 20% in every direction of that so you can look into it, that is something that now resonates at C-level a lot more easily than less tangible kind of things, like a better experience or happier employees, which is critical but somehow does not resonate to final decision makings of the C-levels.
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: So we think about it in a commutative effect in it with a compounding effect and it's progressively unlocking across the entire end to end value chain, those numbers and the value.
Anand Verma: We are at the end of our conversation. Anything else that you want to add for our listeners?
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: Yeah. I think it's a very interesting space. I think we're designing effectively what is our future vision for a future of work. The interesting thing is that we're designing it once again for us. We are all employees of organizations and we can actually initiate a movement change effectively in the workspace, which is similar to what we have done as an industry in a consumer space. I think that will make a better world or make a better place where to live and will unlock a tremendous value in people, make people a lot more successful in what we're doing and actually drive value for organizations.
Anand Verma: To wrap up the conversation, Sebastian, how can people find you and the more information about the practice?
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: We are on LinkedIn, easiest place where to find us. You can find us on BrilliantBasics.com and if you need to email me personally, SWestonLewis@BrilliantBasics.com. Very happy to entertain a conversation on the topic and actually take that forward to wherever it takes us to.
Anand Verma: Just to summarize our conversation today with Sebastian Weston-Lewis, we talked about employee experience. We talked about digital, physical, emotional pillars of making employee experience really better for employees. We talked about the business case angle as well in terms of creating value from better employee experience that leads to better margin and revenue. We talked about how the world is changing both from the workforce but also from a technology perspective, the role of live enterprise and computational design in brief, which we'll talk more about in the next session and it's a very exciting and evolving space.
Anand Verma: I'm truly excited to be part of this space as well. Thank you, Seb for joining me on this first session on future work. There are many more to come. You can find more details on our show notes at Infosys.com/iki, in our podcast section. Sebastian, thank you for your time and a fantastic discussion.
Sebastian Weston-Lewis: Thank you Anand. Great pleasure to be here.
Anand Verma: Everyone, you're listening to the Brilliant Basics edition of the Infosys Knowledge Institute podcast, where we just talked about the future of work and computational design. Thanks to our producer, Yulia Dewberry and the entire Knowledge Institute and Brilliant Basics team. And until next time, keep learning, keep sharing.
About Sebastian Weston-Lewis
As Brilliant Basics' principal practice lead, Sebastian is relentlessly pushing the frontier of Design Thinking to shape a new generation of experiences: Computational Experiences. He is a hands-on, commercially focused leader with a proven track record of success across an established and diverse professional career in the Financial Services, Energy, Retail and Media industries.
Seb provides thought leadership and strategic insights to Infosys' Live Enterprise initiative.