How Uber’s CEO could have saved $10 billion and his job.

28 Sep 2017

Posted by Katz Kiely

The vast majority of people are working in jobs they really don’t care about. Stress levels are sky high. Levels of trust are lower than ever before. And the stats backing it up are everywhere. Employee disengagement is a growing problem that affects business and people.

A year ago I decided to stop moaning and do something about it. I’ve been a busy bee since that Radio 4 talk - gathering a world-class team of geeks, designers, thought leaders, comms wizards and expert advisors who share my passion. We’ve listened, read, pondered, talked, sketched, workshopped, built a prototype and run it by a host of potential clients to make sure we get it right.

.. and, by jolly, we’ve finally done it. We’ve figured out to solve one of the 21st Century’s biggest problems. We’re very excited. The C-Suite leaders we’ve talked to have called the prototype “game-changing” and “revolutionary.”


Let me recap the “why” before I explain the “what and how”:

According to Gallup, only 13% of the worldwide workforce is highly engaged at work. The other 87% really don’t care very much. That’s 40 million people just in the global FTSE 500 spending 10 hours a day doing something they’re not in the least bit interested in. 40 million people not living, just working for a living. “That’s normal.” you say. True, but does it have to be? Does it make sense? Disengaged, purposeless people are unproductive, so surely this is a crazy situation for both business and people.

(If you haven’t yet seen Dan Ariely’s TED talk about the importance of progression and purpose at work, I suggest you do.)


For the sake of simplicity, I group big companies into two camps: “Dinosaurs” and “Talent Magnets”.

Dinosaurs were designed for the industrial age, when people were ‘resources’ hired to keep machines running. Human Resource. We’ve all worked for a Dinosaur: hierarchies, disconnected silos, annual evaluation cycles, thinkers and doers, poor communication, people hamstrung by pointless processes, random KPIs, 8 hours pinned to a desk.

No fun at all and, worse still, vast amounts of money is wasted on processes that block progress. People can’t move forward so they get increasingly demotivated and disengaged. And no one benefits.

But no-one asks workers how things could be improved. Workers don’t feel safe enough (or care enough) to say anything. If they do point out problems, they’re ignored by middle managers who favour keeping the status quo. The C-suite only hears what middle managers want them to hear - until it’s too late.

Remember BP’s DeepWater Horizon oil spill? A monumental human and environmental tragedy that could have been avoided but “workers feared reprisals if they reported problems.” Seven years later, BP’s stock price has fallen by a third. BP may never recover.

Or Uber. If Travis had nurtured a culture where people felt safe to talk and had listened and responded, the crisis would have been avoided. As it was, the PR scandal has knocked a cool £10 billion off Uber’s value.

The tiny percentage of highly engaged workers are either decision makers, or work for the kind of company I call ‘Talent Magnets’: companies that understand the commercial imperative of purpose-driven cultures. Companies like Google, Zappos, Netflix. A growing body of sustainable companies that understand that purpose drives profit:

To make matters worse for ailing Dinosaurs, the talent war gets increasingly fierce. Pesky millennials, with their unshakeable wisdom of youth, only put up with their dysfunctional, unrewarding work environments to gain experience, before heading off to Talent-Magnets as soon as humanly possible. Dinosaurs have little choice: evolve or face extinction.

But it’s not easy. Humans are hardwired to resist change. Trying to evolve too quickly, or in the wrong way, frays the organisational fabric of corporate culture. Top-down “just do it” change leads to resistance. Successful change has to be done alongside people, and carefully rolled out over time. Getting the approach to change wrong leads to plummeting engagement and productivity.


I’ve learned the best way to get it right is to identify people I call ‘Change Agents’ (some call them internal influencers or mavens. Middle managers often call them a pain in the ***.) Once you’ve found them, invite them to co-create, and own, solutions. That way the solutions stick.

That’s where BEEP comes in.

Based on an approach developed with clients over the last 17 years, and informed by cognitive science, BEEP (Behavioural Enterprise Engagement Platform) will help Dinosaurs evolve painlessly, by engaging employees.

Workers are encouraged to and rewarded for pointing out challenges. The software identifies ‘change agents’, and supports them while they co-create solutions. BEEP’s social, gamified, comms software encourages people to find and fix problems, reinforcing collaborative behaviours and nurturing a culture of trust. BEEP will help companies work better while being better places to work.

BEEP is an early warning system, a continuous improvement engine, powered by a cognitive network of people.

We have started our seed round and are talking to smart C-suite leaders who get it, and understand the value of first mover advantage.

Get in touch if you want to know more. 

Katz Kiely
Posted by Katz Kiely

My career has been all about designing tech to connect people so that they can collaborate. So they can work together to be more than the sum of the parts. I built the world’s first open innovation platform for HP, re-architected the way a UN agency did business and delivered a ground-breaking project with Intel that connected mobiles, big screens and data to change behaviour. Now, I head up a software startup that harnesses my experience, knowledge and networks to solve a massive goal problem. How to unleash human potential to drive productivity.

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