Innovation Is All About People With Alison Hawks
Dr. Alison Hawks is the CEO of BMNT, Ltd and Executive Director of the Common Mission Project in the UK, and a recognized expert in military strategy and sociology. Ali was previously the Director of Research of the Section 809 Panel, a US congressionally mandated commission tasked with streamlining and codifying defense acquisition. She was a Lecturer at King’s College London, Defence Studies Department, Assistant Professor at the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, and is currently a Visiting Research Fellow at the School of Security Studies, King’s College London. She has also taught at Brunel University and the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. Her doctorate thesis was in military sociology and Ali received her Ph.D. from the Department of War Studies, King’s College London, and her MA in Strategic Studies from the University of Leeds. She holds a BA in Political Sciences from the University of California, San Diego. Welcome to the SuperCreativity podcast Alison Hawks…
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Alison Hawks 1:04
Thank you for having me, James. Great to be here.
James Taylor 1:07
So people can have probably wondering, you know, the show is all about creativity, innovation startups. Your background is in military strategy and sociology. But there’s part of you and part of what you do now, which is really about innovation startup, lean startup methodology. What got you interested in innovation as a topic?
Military Strategy, Sociology And Innovation
Alison Hawks 1:29
Yeah, that’s a great question. I think that one of the things that we talk about at our company at BMNT around innovation is, is an overwhelming narrative around not only defense innovation, but innovation in general, whether you want to look at kind of FinTech, or different areas of technology or innovation is that it’s about technology. And one of the things that differentiates our company, outside of that innovation is that innovation is about sociology. And it’s really about people and how people react to things, whether that’s different skill sets, or processes or policies, how it changes their career pathways. So when we think about innovation, from our perspective, it’s really about people. So you know, what attracted me to innovation. And lean startup was really what attracted me into academia and military sociology was just being genuinely curious about people. And it came down to I can trace it back to what I did my PhD on, which was armed contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, and looking at them as veterans. So US and UK veterans coming out of the armed services, and then joining a private security company, and redeploying back to Iraq and Afghanistan, where they had deployed previously as a service personnel. And what I really wanted to understand was how that affected their transition to civilian life. So a lot of times veterans transition to civilian life, and they have a series of documented potential issues. Most of them do not have a small subset do and there’s a lot of documentation on that. And I was coming from Coronado in California, where it was a lot of the West Coast Navy SEAL teams, I knew a lot of people that have been private security contractors. But what I was reading in the newspaper and articles wasn’t the same as what I was seeing from the people I knew. And that really drove my curiosity of well, who are they? And why are they going back to Iraq and Afghanistan? And what does it give to them? And then how does it affect their life in terms of their economics? How does it affect potentially their mental health? How does it affect their family structures? How does it affect their sense of belonging, their sense of purpose. So that was really what I focused my PhD thesis on. And in academia, one can actually be very innovative and entrepreneurial. So you are in charge of your own academic agenda, the books you want to write the topics you want to write. And while it has to go through a relatively extensive peer review process, you really are allowed to be an entrepreneur within academia. And so that was the approach I took. But I still felt that something was missing. And that kind of curiosity about people. I wasn’t able to action it so I could research people and I could talk to them, but I actually wanted to do something with them. I wanted to solve problems with them. And so by the time I was in, at the section 809 panel, doing research for Congress on overhauling defense acquisition, part of the job was how do we change the workforce? The acquisition workforce in the Department of Defense, so the acquisition workforce is around 167,000 People in the DOD and they wanted to say, well, how can we change the way that they think and they solve problems? So they brought in the program hacking for defense, which you’ve talked with Pete Newell and Steve Blank about the program, they co create it so I was asked to go and be a part of an educators course educating contractor personnel in hacking for defense methods and lean startup. And when I went there, I it was like a puzzle piece that fit together where I that well, while this is a crossover of everything I wanted to do, which is to stay partly in academia to stay within the defense world to conduct research, but then to apply, apply innovation and apply this kind of creativity in different thinking, towards outcomes that we can kind of anticipate. But we have the flexibility to pivot and experiment and fail and learn. So it’s kind of all of this excitement that came together at once. And that kind of Venn diagram was, you know, me in the middle running over to Pete and saying, Pete, I want to take this to the UK, and I want to grow it and run it. And we can have such an impact in UK academia. And that’s really where the conversation started. So it was really coming from a place of innovation. But seeing that methods like lean startup, are really at the heart of academia and kind of types of qualitative research going out and talking to people developing hypotheses, testing those hypotheses, that outside of academia working on real, real problems out of defense that are really challenging, interesting, complex kind of mind bending, but that you work at such a pace, that it puts you in a position that you’re really forced to be ruthless about your hypotheses. So it’s kind of accelerated a lot of social science research methods in one place. And that’s what really drew me to all of it.
James Taylor 6:18
And it’s interesting that you mentioned that word, a curiosity, curiosity about people kind of go into the sociology part, which I guess is the thing that then links the creativity and the innovation, which is that curiosity, which can I often think sits above all those things can lead into those things. But anyone that’s listening just now, you know, they may think, Well, why would why? Why are we talking about, let’s say, the world of defense, for example, and relation to creativity. I was I was in December, before, things started really kind of kicking off in Ukraine, I was in cave, and also in Chernobyl may just not show up for the first time. And I’ve been kind of watching as that war is kind of unfolded. And it’s interesting, because for me, it’s an outside and not involved in that world. I can see the creativity and innovation almost like working together. Obviously, there’s lots of innovation in terms of certain products, and equipment that’s getting used. But then I saw something the other day where the government, I think there is reusing the the app that all the citizens have for filing their taxes so that they can also so they can now report Russian troop movements using the same app, and using the video, which that’s like, for me, that’s kind of creativity, you know, that’s been your kind of hack that you’re hacking something in that way. So I’m interested in your view. What do you see as that relationship between creativity and innovation? Or do you think they’re related at all?
Alison Hawks 7:51
Well, it’s interesting that you asked, because I have looked this up before. For work, I’ve asked myself that same question, what is the relationship between creativity and innovation, and there’s tons of stuff in Google Scholar that talks about it, there’s a lot of kind of articles and various business reviews. And to be honest, I don’t really necessarily understand it. So it’s not something that I linked together in my everyday work, where I recognize the relationship occurring, that as you were talking about it, and the example that you were using, I kind of jotted down that creativity, to me and in our work are are the ideas and the possibilities. And an innovation is the execution and kind of the delivery of that creativity of that solution into the hands of whoever needs it. So the relationship I see is kind of one fueling the other that might be really different for other people. But in our line of work in the way I think about it, again, creativity is around the ideas and the possibilities, the how might we use? And then innovation is the execution. Okay, how are we actually going to get it into the hands of someone who needs it?
James Taylor 8:55
Now I read an article you did the other day, I think it was you wrote with Pete, How to be competitive in a post COVID world and you kind of outlined these different areas, these kind of six bottlenecks Do you often see that’s kind of holding organizations back from being innovative is it seems that so many organizations have just come up with creative ideas and how to deal with what they’re dealing with just now. They’ve created new processes, you know, there’s innovation kind of going on there. Can you tell me in terms of those bottlenecks now, if anyone listening just now that’s maybe had ideas, creative ideas, develop innovations, new ways of doing things, new processes, but want to ensure that they can keep that and move that and don’t just kind of say, Okay, we’re back to the world as it was, we can go back to what what are those bottlenecks Do you often see in organizations for innovation?
Bottlenecks To Innovation In Organisations
Alison Hawks 9:47
I think the I can only really talk about the area that we operate in, which is in public institutions, and for us, it’s mainly defense and national security. So the intelligence community And the bottlenecks that we that we often see. And one of the things that we work with our customers the most is it comes back to kind of the reason I’m here, which is being curious about people. And and how we manifest that is what Steve Blank developed out of Lean Startup, which is getting out of the building and doing that customer discovery. So a lot of the bottlenecks are because people don’t necessarily understand what are the problems or the issues, or the policies or the processes that matter to people who are doing all of the work. And so when we have an organization, and maybe we have siloed work, or we can’t really get that buy in, or we’re doing things over and over, that’s not getting an outcome. A lot of times, it’s well, let’s go talk to people and see what matters to them. And then really being able to if you get into a constant, if you build the muscle of customer discovery, we call it beneficiary discovery. Because in governments, we don’t have customers, we have beneficiaries, people who benefit from the problem being solved. But if you’re going out and you build that muscle over and over of talking to people to say, you know, what is your problem, what can keeps you up at night, then you start to understand what really matters most to people. And when you can solve problems that matter most to people, you can start to create that buy in, and you can start to get rid of those some of those blockages. But what we’ve found in kind of this COVID world is that having a repeatable and scalable way to do something, which is reliant upon ecosystems and co creation, collaboration, again, that part of getting out of the building, talking to people, bringing people together, and having a bit of a mindset of a rising tide lifts all ships, identifies a lot of opportunities that we see in our business and with our customers, for people to collaborate and say, Oh, you were doing that, too? Why don’t I share what we were doing and see if we can go faster together? Or you have that problem, too? Why don’t we go in and try to share a budget and trying to solve it? So I think, again, it comes back to that really qualitative component of just simply talking to people, and then developing the skill of what are the right questions I need to ask. So for the things that I want to get through a process are the problems I want to solve? What data do I need in order to move this along a process or a pipeline, as we call it? And then what data do I need at certain parts of that process, in order to bring people with me on the decision making process or to really care about the problem? So the bottlenecks that we see a lot are siloed activities, and a lot of redundant efforts? And I think that we tend to look at our work in a really in a mental model that’s really well known in Silicon Valley. And I think in startups, which is that and product development, desirability, will anyone use my solution? Does anyone want to use it? feasibility? Can it be built and viability does the organization want it solved and doesn’t have the budget to solve it. And so in terms of looking at the silos, the more that you do beneficiary discovery, if you can validate that there’s desirability feasibility and viability, then you have a roadmap for solving a problem, or trying to get someone to at least adopt something, if they don’t have a problem, then you’ve convinced them it’s a need that they want to use your solution for. So I think kind of at the heart of it, those are some of the biggest problems that we’ve seen in our work is not necessarily having a doctrine to go about doing innovation or necessarily being creative doing experimentation within defense. And then a lot of times out of that three desirability feasibility and viability one is always missing. And 95% of the problems in government that are the hardest to hack, or viability, does the organization want this problem solved? And do they have the budget to solve it?
James Taylor 13:42
So on that, just wondering, you know, we often you mentioned, the defense contractors you were mentioning before as well, where they may, my understanding of in the world of military is often a the minister might say, Okay, this is a problem we have. And it’s almost like, we need to find a solution provider to do this. There’s, it’s almost like a purchase model I get, I guess it’s something outside anyway. I’m wondering, is it desirable? And if so, how do you do it to create a culture of inclusive innovation right across the organization? So everyone from that person that’s working in logistics, to you know, that that frontline, Navy Seal, for example, to that senior person? How do you ensure that everyone and doing want to do you want to ensure that everyone feels that they have a voice that they can contribute ideas that solve problems, and so that they are involved in some of the kind of innovation process in that way?
Culture of Experimentations
Alison Hawks 14:51
Yeah, I think I think it’s really important. I think that you need to have a real diversity of thought around problem solving. So there’s there’s no point in identifying, you know, one out of every five is the right person to work on innovation. I think all of us as human beings are naturally innovative and creative, how we manifest that is in very different ways. Even if we seem at the surface, we’re not creative people are not innovative people, we solve problems every day, as we go through from leaving the house in the morning to coming home at night. So I think in terms of inclusive innovation, is for us, is getting allowing people to have a voice to talk about the things that matter most to them. Because a lot of times that overlaps. So a lot of people have the same problems, a lot of people have the same priorities that really matter to them. Once you start to get transparency and visibility around those problems, or those challenges at scale, then at a leadership level, you can start to really prioritize what you can work on that will change the needle of the organization, because you’re solving problems, or you’re addressing things that matter the most to the people in the organization. So it’s a little bit of looking at priorities from a different way. So as opposed to going out and asking people very specific questions to try to get the data that you yourself. One is you’re allowing the data to surface as it exists. And to understand you know, what’s out there and giving people a voice. To talk to that. I think the second part of it is really about in our parlance is about disrupting the requirements process. So when you talked about it about saying, like I have a problem, now I need to find a solution provider. So a lot of times in defense, and this is not a negative thing I think this is a really great attribute of people want to solve problems quickly, is they’ll say, okay, or they’ll want to adopt tech, you know, just to retain a competitive advantage. There’s all this like, really positive energy going towards doing the right thing. But it’s like, I really want a really cool piece of tech, because I know that’s going to push the needle farther on our competitive advantage. Well, when we look back in terms of value for money, and using taxpayer money, we have to, we have to be able to answer two questions, you know, what is the problem? And why should I care? And it’s really trying to understand what problem are we solving, and then we can go out to the right supplier, and we can find the right supplier. So we know that when we spend taxpayers money, we know that problem will be solved, as opposed to let’s get a really cool, like missile launcher, you know, and do something with it. And it might really impress a lot of people. But it’s not really relieving any pains for people in their everyday work. And it’s not really providing any gains strategically. So I think two parts of it come down to is that inclusive innovation is allowing everyone to be able to surface the data they have, whether that’s problems or ideas or their own creativity, but allowing that to be heard having some mechanism mechanism for prioritization of then how do we work on this together, and then being really clear about requirements. And that’s specific to us in the area that we work with in defense and maybe government? I hope that answers
James Taylor 17:59
and all that I mean, we were speaking about obviously internal and you kind of you provide frameworks, you talk about that kind of hacking for defense within so people feel empowered, they have a process, they have a way of thinking about innovation within the organization itself, if it’s a defense organization, and then you have contractors. But I’m also wondering now about the colleges and the universities? How are you ensuring getting all these kind of bright young minds, maybe in the 50s, they would have gone out, you know, 40s, I got, I want to go and work in California defense, maybe then they can move, maybe they went to work in the music industry in the 60s, as everything is a bit cooler. And then then they maybe moved into finance in the 80s. And now and then more recently, we moved off into technology and everyone’s to be in Silicon Valley or Berlin or somewhere? How do you ensure those bright young minds are able to solve problems that are related to defense and what to feel? Because this often feels like a little bit of a tangent. You’ve seen a lot of large organizations where there’s a lot of maybe coders, you know, machine learning experts, for example, say, Listen, I don’t want to deal with and I don’t want to be involved in that world. I don’t want to solve problems in that world. I want to make a better app for video, for example. So how do you get the universities and the colleges and those bright minds involved?
Alison Hawks 19:19
Well, give them really interesting problems to solve. So this so the students that are universities here in the UK, and I’ve had, you know, a real honor of being an academic at one of them, King’s College London, actually, and Brunel, two of them. And then this past spring, I co taught the hacking for ministry of defense class at King’s College London at the department worst day, so they let me back in to help co teach. And one of the things that I realized that we hear a lot about, you know, the different generations and their attitudes and maybe even apathy for for what’s going on in the world. And the more that I’ve gotten to know university students through the common mission project and are hacking for courses what We call mission driven entrepreneurship is that the students that we have now, and the people that want to contribute to society are incredibly hardworking. They’re very ambitious. They’re highly motivated, and they are incredibly talented. So I feel like they have gotten a bit of a bad rap. But one thing that I have learned from them is that yes, they do want to work at Google and Facebook, and they do want to earn some money. But actually, they want to work for something that has a sense of purpose. They want to work for something that contributes to the greater good, so they’re more environmentally conscious. They’re more conscious around inclusivity, and equality and inclusion. And oftentimes, what I hear from students when they’re looking at their next steps after their master’s degree is, yeah, the money matters. But I actually want to work on something that matters. So that’s a little bit different, maybe from my generation, where it was just totally, like, not so much about like, do I really want a job at helping to solve climate change? No, I just want to pay my rent. But but those things really matter to the students. So in getting hacking for which we call it into the various courses, so we have hacking for police here, we have hacking for M OD, we have a couple other vectors coming soon. But when you look at in the US hacking for local hacking for oceans, the methodology applies across all of these kind of bigger problems, society’s problems, but what really interests students are interesting problems and real world problems. So our students take the class because they get to have hands on experience. It’s a very intense and fast paced course. But they come out of it kind of being spit balled out of a wind tunnel saying like, Oh, that was the hardest class I’ve ever taken. But it was also the best. And, and they want to continue working with the government on the problem. So they come in, and they tend to some of our students that more liberal universities think, well, the MO D does nothing but like drones and more. And they come into the class and they see, actually, I had no idea that mo D works on this, I didn’t really know how much thought or time they put into developing their people and skills. I didn’t know that they were they really grapple with how do they attract women into the Royal Marine commandos and the amount of effort that they have put behind it. You know, I didn’t really know that the police are looking at these certain aspects of community policing, and building trust. These are really interesting, they really mean something to me, because I feel like I have an impact, I can make an impact in solving that problem. So our classes are oversubscribed, here in the UK, in universities, but it’s also the value that the university see that in 10 weeks, teams of four to five masters students who do not come from a defense background or necessarily a tech background, have have applied and unbiased way of thinking and solving a problem without the baggage of kind of being in a bureaucracy for 20 years. And trying to solve the problem and coming up with maybe really elegant or easy solutions. You know, our students are not reinventing the wheel or coming up with cold fusion, you know, some of their solutions are a phonebook, right? That was one of the solutions for a DSTL problem, a phonebook of what everyone does, how they can be, you know, their extension line. And like the last project that they’ve done, and literally the sponsor almost leapt out of the chair being like, do you have that? I need that, right? No, and that’s not so when we think about innovation, we think about solving problems that matter to people at pace, as opposed to, you know, being Elon Musk, and kind of building SpaceX. So I think really interesting problems that speak to their sense of purpose and their generational calling, which I think is kind of the wider society’s calling around climate change, equality, diversity, inclusion, financial parity, etc, that you
James Taylor 23:47
started this organization. And also, I mentioned the, the other organization you’re involved in as well, at this just before the start of the pandemic. So as any kind of founder, I’m guessing that was a very interesting journey for you. And yeah, she says, um, before we came in, we started recording which is, you said, you felt that time to creativity was a lot is a luxury. What was luxury? Because so can you can you dig into that a little bit? I’d love to know your journey. And also you had another big launch of a human being into the world as well. So talk us about what that looked like that period and what why you thought you know, creativity can somebody that feels like a luxury.
Alison Hawks 24:27
Yeah, yeah. Thank you. Um, well, I think this is really the first time kind of publicly talking about, you know, my journey in this way. So this is actually really exciting for me. So I when I met Pete, and kind of pitch coming over here in launching the common mission project, and then we decided to co founded BMT over here. I had this incredible vision in my head, and by default on, I just love working so I’ll spend all day working and kind of a bit of a workhorse and then I launched we had a launch party. For the common mission project, we you know, we’re starting to talk to potential customers and the first month that we launched the M and T here in January of 2019. And then in March in 2019, I found out I was pregnant. And I remember thinking, oh, man, I’m on this trajectory. And now I’m going to have a baby. And I’m not, you know, I’m not going to be able to do it all. And this kind of Anne Marie slaughter is you know why women can’t have it all article can visit kept floating around my head. And I went into, I went into my pregnancy, pretty naive and thinking, Well, when I have a baby, I’ll just continue working at the same pace of work now, because I can push through anything, and I’ll just breastfeed on the go. So that I disprove that hypothesis. And I did work pretty much up until I had my child. And I didn’t take that much maternity leave, because I knew that the train had to slow down, but it could not stop. And also, we were not at a position where we had customers where I could hire a lot of people to cover me or get them trained in time. So it really was upon me. And then people like Pete Newell, and Steve Weinstein and Jackie space from BMT coming over and kind of Holding, holding the fort down for me until I got back on my feet. So when my son was about three and a half months old, we we went into lockdown. And I think I took about six weeks off, but I was on emails. And I was as I was saying earlier, I was kind of driving to meetings and, and pumping and being in a janitor’s closet and pumping and being late to meetings because I had to pump. So I think at the time, I was already feeling pretty tired. And kind of like, wow, I’m just barely keeping us all together, but still really dedicated to what what I’m doing. And then locked down hit. And it is the first week of lockdown. I thought this is great, I don’t have to go out anymore. Like I don’t have to feel guilty about not going to things I can just sit at home. And what I found was I worked twice as much in lockdown. And I work twice as hard and twice as much while still having a really tiny baby. And, and it kept going to the point where I kept thinking, Oh, I’ve hit burnout. And then six months later, I’d be like, Man, now I really hit burnout. And then three months after that, I’d be like, Oh, I think I hit it now, you know. So when kind of coming out of lockdown and pivoting a lot of our products and services. But not only that, you know, when we went into lockdown, we had kind of one customer doing one engagement. Now we have multiple customers, and we’re a multi million pound company in the UK. And it was I think through like sheer grit determination, probably looking back through creativity, we had to pivot all of our stuff that we do in person, we had to do it online. And we did that really quickly. And then trying to hire people bring them on board formed this company, while still trucking along. So when when what we talked about earlier is it feels like we have been moving at warp speed that COVID actually accelerated the speed at which we were moving. Yet, I read something really interesting in COVID. And I can’t remember who it was from like Bloomberg or something saying that in COVID, that people are able to maintain their social capital in terms of their customer relationship management, but they’re not able to increase their social capital. So it’s really hard to go out and get new customers online and virtually. And that was something that we definitely found. But it was maintaining that social capital, keeping that speed trying to bring people on. And then also think about, well, what do I have to do to be a good leader? And what’s the culture that I want to build in this little company, and then having all of that also delivering to customers, but then getting up at you know, 420 in the morning when my son gets up, because it’s very early riser, you know, managing him, and then after going home from work, working from seven to 10pm, to try to get it all done. And so when you asked, you know, where do you get your creativity from? It just struck me, I have no idea. Like I don’t think I’ve had like a moment by myself to really think. And I get a lot of pushback from a lot of people saying you need to carve out time to think. But I think when you’re in the really early throes of having a start up and then throw in having a baby and not taking the kind of normal 10 months maternity leave, you know, kind of six to 10 months that’s taken here to really recharge, which I think is amazing. And I would definitely do it again if I had another kid.
Creativity I think has been a real casualty of COVID For me, whereas I’m very focused on growing the company. But I wouldn’t know how to answer that question. And I feel like having Creativity to me feels like having time to read and to think and having those outside conversations, learn about new things. And it feels I’d be so curious to hear feedback from other startup founders especially, we’d love to hear from female startup founders who are also pregnant as they launch their business. So you know when did when did you You recharge when Where did you get your creativity? Do you derive it from your family? Is it from books? Is it from work? Because I’m still trying to answer that question.
James Taylor 30:08
Well, if anyone’s listening to watching this, just now as well reach out to Ali, if you’ve got any thoughts, your observations, but I am wondering, you know, just listening to an album yesterday, as it was Alma Mozart, he had this two years in 1786, and 1785, which was his timing, he was really prolific, he did his best work. And a lot of people said that one of the reasons he was most prolific was because his, he ended up having a lot of children. And he had to constantly produce in order to keep the money going in. So it wasn’t like something you know, I think, taking long walks next door, he had to produce, he had to like, you know, Jerry, that creativity at that level, and also, he had expensive tastes, I think he likes nice clothes and other things as well, which probably didn’t help. But I am wondering that you know, that you’re picking up on something I think we’ve actually spoken about on the show before, which you’re speaking about one stage of a woman’s life, I know that child, childbirth, and then thinking about, okay, how do I make space, my creativity, deep thinking. But there’s, there’s another stage, which is that kind of which I’ve seen other women, maybe some other guests we’ve had on the show, which is that kind of menopause post menopause stage as well, where it’s been described to me that the menopause, it has been so difficult to, you know, that fog, that brain fog we often hear during that kind of cook time as well. And sometimes after the after that, that kind of passes and you move to that next time in one’s life. There’s an explosion of energy and ideas. And then that reminded me a little bit of sometimes when you see top tennis players or sports stars, they often hit their real peak, they’re at that real prolific period in their career after they’ve had an injury. Because it’s forced them to reassess things and get a little bit smarter with how they use their time, you know, the training time as well. So I don’t know, I don’t know if you’ve got any views on any of that stuff on it.
Alison Hawks 32:11
I think I think it’s really interesting, because that’s, that’s a narrative I hear quite a lot about, you know, people love hiring mothers, because they know how to multitask, which by the way, is not a thing, our brain cognitively cannot multitask. And that they know how to prioritize, because time is so precious, I have not gotten any better at prioritization, I do not know how to multitask. And I haven’t, I don’t feel like I kind of waited for that superpower to arrive to be like, Wow, I know, I’m going to focus so hard on five things I need to do. And sometimes at the end of the day, I’m like, wow, I only got one or I completely missed the task. And now I’m going to work tonight. So if that superpower is out there, and it’s looking for someone, to be receptive for it. But I think it also sets really false expectations around what women can do in the workplace, after after having kids. And that’s not necessarily that they can’t be ruthless, you know, prioritization, however, this prioritization, or they can’t multitask or do these different things. But there’s an expectation because we have kids in the end, because we take on so much at home and different tasks, that this is a natural ability that we have, and that by virtue of having a child, we then become someone who’s almost superhuman, their ability to do administrative things, or to get things done. And when you put that additional pressure on women, women, I think, generally, it is absolutely crushing. Because it’s just, you know, I actually don’t want to multitask, I don’t want to prioritize, I want an hour just to think I want to read a book, I don’t want to be more productive, I want to be more meaningful. And to be more meaningful, I need to do less small things. So it’s something I tend to see a lot of, I think, definitely, and I’m only aware of it, because I am a woman kind of going through this, I don’t read men’s magazine, so maybe it’s going on with them in different stages of their lives. But there seems to be this kind of overarching, this is what you should be, and then holding women to an even higher standard, because they’ve had a child and therefore they become superhuman. And I think that’s really dangerous. Because as I told you, you know, sometimes I just get through the day, and I’m like, wow, I cannot do the laundry. I don’t want to cook supper, you know? And to think that I can do all of those things. I think it supports a I think it really supports a false a false narrative. And yeah, I’ll stop there. I think it No.
James Taylor 34:37
So I mean, that there’s that obviously that time, and I think it is changing. And obviously, you’re in the UK now and I’m based here in the UK, and you’re from the US I’ve lived in the US and and there’s differences in terms of, I guess, state support of, of co parenting, and that in there’s different places in the European model in the US and other models. So there’s it’s diff Got to make any generalizations on it. But I am interested in you know, even just now when you don’t necessarily have the time to be able to take those long. You know those periods that can really deep thought all the time? Who do you try to surround yourself? Or what influences Do you try to surround yourself with? So at least you’re getting new new neurons are firing noose, new influences are coming into your thinking in different ways. Even if you don’t have a chance to really stop to think differently. least you’re getting those inputs, different inputs, what influences you surround yourself with?
Alison Hawks 35:31
And I think it’s a great question. And again, I feel in a way, it does feel a little bit of a luxurious question that I have the opportunity to find all these different influences to surround myself with when, when my life right now, and my priorities are my family and my bark,
James Taylor 35:49
but I’m getting I’m guessing even in your work, you’re you’re not just reading dry? No, exactly. Yeah, to do document.
Hacking for Defence
Alison Hawks 35:57
So my influences are one. So a couple things I always loved learning. So I tried to at least learn about something I don’t know about, even if it’s really bite sized stuff. So right now I’m learning about artificial intelligence, natural language processing, just like, you know, artificial intelligence for Dummies, was something that’s so far out of my wheelhouse. Can you coming from such a social science background? Um, I read, you know, I guess I will say one of my little luxuries in the morning is My husband always brings me a cup of tea in the morning, and then he picks up, you know, now it gets our son when he wakes up and takes them downstairs for a few minutes. So I get to read the New York Times and Wall Street Journal and just look at some articles. And I definitely helps me think about things differently. Because I’m looking at things from a different perspective and what’s going on. Like it get my something that we talked about the very beginning, and maybe before we started was around, I don’t know, the attorneys creative pairing. That was a and you know, I think that is where that is such a great term, because my husband, I think is one person I get a lot of, it’s very influential to me, he thinks completely differently than I do. And so he really challenges me on why I think things and also really tempers me, but forces me to think about things in a different way. And then I think Pete Newell and you know, who we co founded, BMNT here together is to me, P is is kind of my canvas, and he’s had these experiences, and his experiences and his values of his co founders are what really drives the ethos and the values of BMT in the US. Now, BMT in the UK is not a US company, it’s a UK company with UK customers. And so when I came over here, I just almost regurgitated Pete stories, verbatim, right? And kind of told them over and over until I started to get my own stories. But one thing that I love about P and Steve Blank, and Steve Weinstein has a total intellectual generosity. So when I go to them, I say, Hey, I have totally plagiarized, do I have I’ve taken your you know, your experience? And I said it verbatim, their response is great. Okay, now, how do you weave that into your your own experience, and then I can take what Pete and Steve Blank and see Weinstein have been through, and and then I can look at it, and I can talk about it a little bit differently. And so that kind of creative pairing is, I think, between the two companies where we look at the model of what they’ve done. And then I use that as a blank canvas to kind of build out, you know, well, what does that mean for us? And then I guess this is a really good way to think about it for me. So thank you. It’s like, well, how can we be creative about it? Because we have to think differently. So I think actually, a lot of that creativity comes from that creative pairing.
James Taylor 38:51
It’s interesting, because we’ve had Steve Blank on the show. And Pete as well, I’ll make sure we link to those episodes, people can listen to those episodes. And that was a thing that I’ve just meeting people the first time, although I’ve loved his work for many, many years, was how you said that intellectual generosity. You know, we had Eric Ries on the show many years ago, which was kind of the first time I learned about really that whole lean startup movement and that methodology and and I think that was the nice thing about Stevie was very being very open to other people to build upon his ideas as well, which is a beautiful thing to see. Um, you mentioned artificial intelligence. Is there any other kind of technologies that you actually use to help you work a bit smarter to free up your time to augment you in the work that you do?
Alison Hawks 39:39
If you talk to my employees, they would say that as a last question, I would be able to answer I might I can. I’ve nailed Google Calendar. But apart from that, no, I’m actually I like to keep things really simple. I take notes by hand. I don’t like to have a lot of technical will actually I find it makes me less productive. It’s very confusing. I don’t really know where I put the last thing. So kind of my hacks are to keep everything in one notebook, which I tote around with me all over London but I don’t Yeah, I don’t I’m not someone who
James Taylor 40:18
on now I’m wondering, you know something that is often the thing of the Silicon Valley type model is lots of whiteboards short in different boards, people scrolling all the time, is that something that you use to kind of is one thing I often think about my own in my own creativity is, is I love I’m an old fashioned person as well. I have my moleskin journal and my look down journals and that’s my thing, but sometimes I just feel that I need a bigger canvas to work on. So I have to go to a board I don’t know is that something you find or you can have to dig into your ideas and explore your ideas just using that paper and pen?
Alison Hawks 40:52
No, definitely you know earlier just before I got on with you, our leadership team was using kind of a whiteboard and post it notes to try to brainstorm, diverge and converge around a couple of things about the company but yeah, I think using paper and pen that kind of whiteboard more physical expression of communication and knowledge and observing is something is kind of my hack as opposed to trying to use a big tech stamp.
James Taylor 41:18
Fantastic. Well Alson where’s the best place if you want to learn more about BMT hacking for mo D hacking for police we’ve had and also the common mission project, where should they go to sort of finding out about all these things?
Alison Hawks 41:31
Well, BMT in the UK, you can find us on BM n t.co.uk. The common mission project which delivers our hacking for programs, you can find that common mission.uk and happy for anyone to reach out to me. My email is a Hawks. Ah, aw email@example.com.
James Taylor 41:54
Well, Alison Hawks. Ally Hawks. Thank you so much for coming on the show today and sharing your journey, you’re going to wish you great success with it.
Alison Hawks 42:02
Thanks. Thanks so much for having me. You really enjoy the conversation.
James Taylor 42:05
You can subscribe to the super creativity podcast on Spotify, Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts while you’re there. Please leave us a review. I would really, really appreciate it. I’m James Taylor, and you’ve been listening to the super creativity podcast.